Wichita’s Dr. Donna Sweet “seems to be everywhere”

Dr. Donna Sweet with Santa at “A Christmas to Remember.” Photo by David Quick.

by David Quick
Special to The Gayly

Those of us who know Dr. Donna Sweet from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita constantly wonder how she finds the time to care for her large patient load. Specializing in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS and with HIV again increasing in alarming numbers in and around Wichita, her work seems endless.

Yet she always finds ways to stop each year and celebrate with her patients and their families and friends.
Her annual summer picnic to support her patients at her home, A Sweet Affair, is always great fun.

Even more legendary is her annual Christmas party and dinner, A Christmas to Remember, held for her patients and those they love. According to her administrator, Sheryl Kelly, this year marked the twenty-eighth annual holiday celebration. Kelly has been assisting Dr. Sweet for all these holidays.

This year Donna and her staff and many volunteers, including students from Wichita Heights High School, served a great traditional meal and presented a joyous holiday program. Award-winning AIDS educator Jamie Morales read A Visit from Saint Nicholas as the poem was acted out by volunteers, Heights' students and Dr. Donna herself.

Laughter and applause echoed through the meeting hall at St. James Episcopal Church where Rev. Dawn Frankfurt and church members welcomed the guests to Wichita's beautiful College Hill.

According to Kelly, A Christmas to Remember began during the darkest days of AIDS history. Sweet and her staff felt a need to be sure that all her patients had an opportunity to enjoy a warm and friendly holiday party and dinner. In those days, some of her patients were alienated from families and sometimes even from their friends.

Today that situation is vastly improved and the celebration welcomes many of her patient's families and friends and children as well as those who are still living with HIV in the Wichita area.

This year I was accompanied to A Christmas to Remember by high school student, Micah Streeter, who is one of Tallgrass Film Festival’s emerging filmmakers. Micah photographed the fun and met many of those who keep this wonderful tradition active. After watching Dr. Donna move among her community, Micah turned to me and said, “Dr. Sweet seems to be everywhere.”

Indeed, she does – and thank goodness.

Copyright 2016 The Gayly – December 28, 2016 @ 9:30 a.m.