Just when you thought it was safe to come out of hibernation… Bear Titleholders Jed Ryan and Joe Mannetti, AKA The Care Bears, have joined forces again to create their first fundraising event since 2014. Named “Baskets For Iris”, the event is a benefit for New York City’s Iris House, and will be held at Manhattan’s legendary Stonewall Inn on Thursday, April 4, 2019.
As Jed mirthfully proclaimed, “Who doesn’t like big baskets?!” The event is a true variety show, with ten diverse performers and speakers, and New York City artist Adriano doing live drawings of the performers in real time. And, yes, there will be raffles for some very exclusive prizes!
The two sexy Special Guest raffle sellers are Mr. New York Unlimited Bear Dan Jiminez and Mr. New York Unlimited Cub George “Bam Bam” William, both of whom are Bear movers-and-shakers in their own right.
All money raised will be donated to Iris House. The mission of Iris House is “to save lives through comprehensive support, prevention and education services for women, families, and under-served populations affected by HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in a safe, family-centered environment.”
One of their services is HIV testing. HIV and AIDS awareness is a cause that both Ryan and Mannetti are dedicated to.
Ryan is an award-winning freelance journalist with a focus on the LGBTQ community, whose photographs and writings have appeared in many written and online magazines, as well as in The Huffington Post. He is also a boylesque performer. Since 1994 he has supported, organized, and participated in many charitable endeavors benefitting his beloved community.
Mannetti has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and has worked as an HIV testing counselor. He is also an Ambassador of Hope 2010 for The Dab the AIDS Bear Project, a community-based organization of concerned citizens infected and/or affected by HIV and AIDS.
When they first met, Ryan and Mannetti knew that they should combine their mutual affinities for community service for a good cause– and have a fun, wild, and sexy time while doing it!
So, just where did they meet? It was at the Mr. Connecticut Leather 2011 Contest at the New Haven bar 168 York Street. New York native Ryan, a newcomer to the Leather community, was one of three Contestants, and Mannetti was one of the Judges. Ryan lost the Contest to Tim White, who he would become and stay friends with to this day.
Mannetti was raised in New York, lived in California for 23 years, moved to Connecticut, and then eventually made his way back to New York, where he now lives. When the pair first met almost eight years ago, Mannetti was already a multiple Title holder and Award-winner, having been named “Bear Fundraiser of the Year 2009” in “The Best of the Bears” Poll, and already holding five Bear Titles– the most prestigious of which was “International Daddy Bear 2009.”
Ryan went on to be the last “Mr. Rawhide 2011” before that iconic leather bar sadly closed. The next year, he won the title of “Mr. North American Bear 2012” in Lexington, Kentucky, which was the first ever North American Bear Weekend. That year, the event has just under 100 attendees. Since then, the weekend has become a phenomenon, requiring multiple hotels and becoming a major international Bear event.
Both Ryan and Mannetti are members of Mama Sandy Reinhardt’s philanthropic org Mama’s Family: Ryan is “Mama’s New York Naughty Boy”, and Mannetti is “Mama’s Care Bear”.
Mannetti was the recipient of the Justice-Love Award from the MCC Church in the Valley in North Hollywood, CA in 2010, as well as the Pride NY Award in New York and a Dorothy Award from the New Haven Pride Center in Connecticut– both in in 2014. In 2018, he hosted and performed in a cabaret show with the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus.
Ryan has produced four charity Bear/Leatherman pinup calendars through the years, with proceeds having benefitted the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. His next project is a photo exhibition called “The Morning After”, which will feature side-by-side dual portraits of several celebrities of New York nightlife: the dichotomy of Saturday night craziness alongside Sunday morning peace and tranquility.
This is the fourth fundraising event that Ryan and Mannetti have done together. Their first fundraiser as The Care Bears was in 2012– appropriately enough, in New Haven where the two met. The event was called “Care Bears In Action” and was a benefit for AIDS Project New Haven. The next year, the two teamed up for “Furry and FIERCE”, a benefit for FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment), a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of LGBTQ youth of color in New York City. That event, held at New York City hotspot Rockbar, featured live performances by Bone Intell, BearDonna, and a young New York City nightlife phenomenon named Peppermint, who would go on to become a runner-up on the ninth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race “and make her Broadway debut in “Head Over Heels”.
In 2014, Ryan and Mannetti teamed up with Mr. Connecticut Bear 2014 Trell Walters for “True Colors and the Three Bears”– a benefit for the LGBTQI youth outreach organization True Colors. Like the previous events, this fundraiser featured some amazingly talented performers, raffles, and prizes. It also featured a now-notorious “Stud Pie” auction! (The event was over but the whipped cream lived on…)
It was Joe Mannetti’s idea to choose Iris House is the beneficiary for the event. Joe tells me, “Iris House is an amazing place doing amazing work with our communities. They are all about grass roots outreach, family, and unconditional love without judgement or stigma. Founded and run by Black women in New York City, they offer food, support services, and HIV/AIDS outreach and education to men, women, children, and families in New York City and the surrounding areas. It has been going strong for 25 years now.”
Jed adds, “Joe didn’t even need to ask me to co-organize this event. I just said, ‘Tell me where and when!'”
Jed is excited about the lineup of performers who have agreed to donate their time, energy, and talents for a worthy cause.
“We have some of the most talented performers in New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia on our lineup. We have singers, drag artists, burlesque performers, comedians, and some artists who are a combination of the above! But they are all, excuse the expression, fucking amazing! I’m not going to give it all away. All I’ll say is that you have to be there to see what surprises we have in our baskets!”
The Care Bears Jed Ryan and Joe Mannetti present “Baskets For Iris”: A Fundraiser for Iris House, on Thursday, April 4, 2019, from 7PM to 10PM at The Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher Street, New York City. Suggested donation is $10.00.
The night will feature Witti Repartee, Nelson Gonzalez, Zola Powell, Bear Donna, The Legendary Amaz’n Grace, Broody Valentino, Tym Moss, Sucia Queen, Gray Grammercy, Ike Avelli, and Reverend Yolanda with live drawings by Adriano, raffle boys Dan Jiménez (Mr. Unlimited Bear 2018) & George William (Mr. Unlimited Cub 2018) and The NYC (dis)Order of Sisters!
See more about the event at www.facebook.com/events/2406773479559629/.
To learn more about Iris House, visit www.IrisHouse.org