Inside People

updated 09/22/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

THEY WERE REMARKABLE WOMEN who became friends not because they were celebrities but because they were mothers who cared about children with AIDS. The Princess of Wales and Elizabeth Glaser met just once, in the summer of 1994. Elizabeth, the wife of actor Paul Michael Glaser, had contracted HIV from a blood transfusion in 1981. After she unwittingly passed the virus to her children, she founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and became a crusader against the disease. The Princess of Wales, too, was a tireless AIDS activist, who traveled the world to fund a cure.

Their day together was private, listed on no official schedule. They talked of Ariel, the Glasers' daughter, who died of AIDS in 1988, and Jake, their son, now 12, who is infected but so far healthy. "Diana and Elizabeth recognized how important it is to help children," says Paul Michael, 54, the Starsky and Hutch star. "Diana acted from the heart; Elizabeth did too."

What no one knew then was that Elizabeth was fading. By the fall, she was homebound. Yet even after she could no longer speak, Diana telephoned. Someone would hold the receiver so Elizabeth could hear Diana's urgings to be strong.

Elizabeth died in December 1994 but not before turning the Pediatric AIDS Foundation into a research powerhouse. Now, with Diana's passing, it seems fitting that PEOPLE give tribute to the cause that meant so much to these women. Since 1992 we have been a cosponsor of the annual Pediatric AIDS Picnic, one of the organization's major fund-raisers, which brings out Hollywood's biggest names. And last year PEOPLE and the princess teamed in Chicago for an event that raised $1.4 million for cancer charities.

PEOPLE will contribute $100,000 to our new Princess Diana Fund, which will help subsidize the Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award for pediatric AIDS research. Because the stories of these two women have touched all of us over the years, we're also inviting you to donate what you can. We will match your contributions up to the full amount of the five-year program, $700,000. I believe this fund would have pleased Diana enormously.

Tax-deductible contributions should be made out to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and mailed to the Princess Diana Fund, c/o PEOPLE, P.O. Box 1435, Radio City Station, New York, N.Y., 10101-1435. To charge a donation to a credit card, call toll-free, 1-888-499-HOPE.

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