This Sunday, May 16 at 10 a.m. about 50,000 people will gather in Central Park to participate in the 25th annual AIDS Walk in New York City. The walk is only 10 km (that’s 6.2 miles for the metrically challenged), but it’s one big, huge, beautiful party the whole way.
The fun comes not from general hilarity (although there’s plenty of that), but from the lovefest that happens among everybody who is walking, volunteering, giving out water, singing, dancing, and performing –as well as everybody cheering the walkers on from the sidelines. It’s an all-ages, all-races, all-good vibes show.
Not that there aren’t poignant moments: from every team family that is wearing a T-shirt of a lost loved one or carrying a quilt, you can feel the quiet pain – but there’s also a sense of collective empowerment, shared comraderie, and passionate determination to kick this disease to the street once and for all.
Today, I’m donating to Jessica Baxter’s AIDS Walk team. Jessica is the 26-year old daughter of a friend of mine who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and has been volunteering in teen pregnancy prevention, AIDS outreach, and sex education programs in the rural South since she was 14. After getting her masters in non-profit fundraising, Jessica moved to New York to work with pregnant teens at the Inwood House.
Last year, she put together an AIDS Walk team to raise $1,000 – but ended up raising $2,500. This year, her goal is to raise $5,000 with a team of 15-20 – and she’s promised everybody on her team, “Do the walk, raise money, and I’ll buy you a margarita.” Game on.
In 2009, with enticements like Jessica’s, AIDS Walk New York raised $$5.6 million for Gay Men’s Health Crisis and 50 other local AIDS service organizations. This is crucially important money: 1.1 million people are living with HIV in this country, and every 9 minutes, someone contracts the disease. From research to housing and health care, GMHC and the others provide support for the HIV-positive, and search for a cure.
AIDS Walk is a New York tradition (the city turns the Empire State Building spire red for 2 days before the walk), it’s a blast, and it’s a really, really good cause. So get out there and walk, or let your dollars do the talking and send in a few bucks to your favorite team (To donate to Jessica’s, click here🙂
Be assured, you’ll never walk alone.