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Martie Gillin


Bob Gillin Jr. was an all-American boy with deep Main Line roots. Born in Bryn Mawr and one of nine kids, Bob was the president of his class at the Haverford School and crewed on the varsity team. Years later, however, when Bob was suffering from AIDS, he became a pariah. He died in 1992, leaving his mother, Martie Gillin, with the motivation to break the silent shame that often engulfs people living with HIV/AIDS. 

Gillin educated herself about the disease, and in 1994, the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur begrudgingly allowed her to speak to students about AIDS education. A local newspaper ran a story about the event, and Good Morning America even did a segment. “Only then did other schools allow me to speak with their students,” she says. “After that, well, I never shut up.”

SpeakUp! extends Gillin’s groundbreaking, silence-shattering mission. Students, parents and teachers meet at schools throughout the region to have small-group discussions about difficult topics like mental illness, stress, suicide, drugs, alcohol, relationships, sex and social media. 

“Parents and their kids are not in the same groups, so they never speak directly to each other,” Gillin says. “The hope is that you get in the car on the way home with your kid and say, ‘This is what we talked about. What do you think?’” 

Martie Gillin

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