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Elton John honors Ryan White at Indianapolis concert

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Elton John met with the White family after learning of Ryan's ordeal.

Jennie Runevitch/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Elton John performed on the campus of Butler University Wednesday night to remember the life and legacy of AIDS victim Ryan White.

The two-hour benefit at Clowes Memorial Hall featured songs, celebrity speakers, and video tributes to White.

Twenty years ago, as a teenager, White's life was cut short by AIDS, but his strength in the face of struggle became an inspiration.

"I think he leaves a legacy of courage, I mean real grit. He didn't have to do this. And he did," said former talk show host Phil Donahue, who attended Wednesday's benefit.

Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13 after receiving a tainted transfusion of a blood-clotting agent. He died five years later.

But through it all, White was able to change minds and hearts about people living with HIV and AIDS.

He did that not just in his hometown of Kokomo, but around the world.

"In the early days of the crisis, when everybody was running around with their hair on fire, and everybody was ignorant and lot of people were prejudiced, Ryan was out there trying to make sense of all this and they listened to him. Fabulous. He was wonderful," Donahue said.

"This message is still really important, that kids can make a difference. Kids can be mature beyond their age and help to educate others," said Jeff Patchen, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

That inspiration is especially poignant for Elton John, who forged a close friendship with White and his family.

The singer has said White changed his life and helped him to become sober.

"That was very rewarding to me to see that something good came out of Ryan's passing because I've seen how right away how it made a difference in his life," said Ryan's mom, Jeanne White-Ginder.

White-Ginder has remained friends with Elton John through the years.

When she wanted to do something special to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her son's death, she called on the singer for help.

She says John didn't hesitate to come back to Indianapolis, to celebrate his friend and raise money to help others just like him.

"It just seemed like Elton always had his arm around me, 'What do you need? Do you need anything?' and so I definitely call him my guardian angel," White-Ginder said.

Tickets ranged between $150 and $500 for Wednesday's benefit.

Proceeds will go toward Elton John's AIDS foundation and to the Indianapolis Children's Museum's "Power of Children" exhibit, which features Ryan White.

Learn more about Ryan's story and his fight to attend school.

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