The TAB staff, board and volunteers are a group of individuals dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS until we reach the goal of ZERO new infections in the state of Colorado, across the country, and then the world. This is an attainable goal. 


The Telluride AIDS Benefit fights HIV and AIDS by raising awareness and generating financial support for prevention programs and client care.


To keep AIDS relevant in every generation and to cultivate a healthy and stigma-free society. 


The event and its success belongs to this community. Telluride is amazing; people truly rally to support things they believe in, and you don’t see that much in today’s day and age.
— Kandee DeGraw

It all started back in 1994, when Telluride locals Kandee DeGraw and Robert Presley were having a beer at the historic Sheridan Bar. Presley, a fashion designer battling AIDS, was sharing his frustration as to the costs involved with getting his treatment. DeGraw, then part of a comedy troupe, suggested her group do a benefit to help pay for Presley's medical expenses. While very appreciative, Presley felt that if there were to be a benefit, it should be for the Western Colorado AIDS Project (WestCap) rather than for him. And just like that, the now legendary Telluride AIDS Benefit was born. TAB raised $12,000 for WestCap in its first year, with DeGraw at the helm. "We ran an ad for volunteers and had 120 people show up—it was incredible," recalls DeGraw.

Kandee DeGraw, Daiva Chesonis and Amy Kimberly at an early benefit.

Kandee DeGraw, Daiva Chesonis and Amy Kimberly at an early benefit.

When local Daiva Chesonis entered the scene the following year, she brought with her fresh concepts and ideas that gave birth to the fashion show, which has become the signature event for TAB week. In the spirit of creating a distinctive and funky show, for the 1995 inaugural AIDS Benefit Fashion Show, Robert Presley made an entire clothing line out of inflatable pool toys! During the years that followed, outfits were made from household items, like cellophane and tin foil, and several years have featured fashion lines designed entirely out of the Free Box. Over time, local stores and even big name designers began donating lines of clothing, and Presley annually created a special collection, until he grew too ill to do so. Robert's humor, love and conviction continue to inspire the work we do.

Ron Gilmer and Robert Presley celebrating Ron's graduation from culinary school. Go Ron!

Ron Gilmer and Robert Presley celebrating Ron's graduation from culinary school. Go Ron!

Over two decades later, the fashion show is still a lighthearted and fun event that fights for a very serious cause, yet it has matured into a production that rivals those seen during Fashion Week in New York City. Between the choreography, music, make-up, dramatic sets, amazing models and, of course, exquisite fashions, it is a professional and impressive runway extravaganza! The success of TAB attracts merchandise donations from superstars of the fashion world, like Catharine Malandrino, Elie Tahari, Kenneth Cole and Dolce & Gabbana. 

The community of Telluride continues to fight for this cause. In the months leading up to the show, a volunteer staff of over 150 people, putting in thousands of hours, come together to put on the week's events. TAB's Gala Fashion Show has become somewhat of a Telluride institution — the premiere event of the winter and a favorite of both locals and visitors alike.