AIDS Arms expands LifeWalk beneficiaries list

Posted on 21 May 2009 at 4:50pm
By Tammye Nash Senior Editor

Adding beneficiaries will increase participation, save agencies money on staging fundraisers, according to AIDS Arms ED


Miss Oak Cliff Alex Eppler gets a closer look at one of the contestants during the Canine Cool Drool pub crawl Sunday, May 17, that started at TMC, moved on to Sue Ellen’s and wound up at S4. The event included contests for Best Pet Trick, Best Fashion and Best Look-Alike, and judges included, in addition to Eppler, Dallas Voice publisher Robert Moore, Jaga Meyers of Pride Radio, Caven Enterprises President Gregg Kilhoffer and Miss Oak Lawn Kat Ewing. Jen Austin emceed. Canine Cool Drool kicked off LifeBark, a fundraising effort started last year as a way for people to bring their pets along to participate in the annual AIDS Arms LifeWalk, set for Oct. 11. JUSTIN VANDER/Special to Dallas Voice

Invention can be expensive. And at a time when AIDS service organizations are already struggling to find funds, AIDS Arms decided to help other agencies in the DFW community save money by not having to "re-invent the wheel" in terms of fundraising.

That’s why proceeds from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be going to nine organizations instead of the usual three, according to Raeline Nobles, AIDS Arms executive director.

In addition to AIDS Arms, which has owned the walk since 1999, AIDS Services of Dallas, the Gregg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Texas, Resource Center Dallas, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, Turtle Creek Chorale and Youth First Texas will all get a cut of the money raised by the walk, set for Oct. 11 at Lee Park.

"In the past, there were usually three beneficiaries for the walk each year; no more than three," Nobles said. "But there are a lot of issues affecting the walk and all the agencies this year. No. 1 is the economy.

"It is just so difficult for all nonprofits to raise funds this year. Everyone is struggling to meet budget," Nobles said. "On the other hand, there is an increasing flood of people needing to access every agency’s service. So it is a responsibility we have to each other to support each other as much as possible."

One way AIDS Arms can do that, Nobles said, is to broaden the impact of an established event — LifeWalk — by broadening its number of beneficiaries.

"LifeWalk is already an established, recognizable event, and by increasing the number of organizations that are participating as beneficiaries and partners, it allows those organizations to not have to invest in creating the infrastructure for a separate event. It gives these organizations the chance to get involved and raise money without having to expend any money up front to create the event," she said.

While different AIDS service organizations might offer some of the same services, Nobles said each one brings something unique to the table. And each of those services needs financial support.

At the same time, each of those organizations is in many cases trying to draw on the same sources, the same donors in many cases. And even the deepest of those pockets can get tapped out after a while.

"The other thing that is happening," Nobles said, "is that there are so many fundraising events that all of us have started hearing from our funders, our donors, ‘Why not collaborate better and do some of this together? Why not have one big event rather than a bunch of small events?’


JUSTIN VANDER/ Special to Dallas Voice Officials with the 2009 LifeWalk, set for Oct. 11 in Lee Park, recently announced that eight beneficiaries had been chosen for this year’s event, up from the usual three. Representatives of the beneficiaries were introduced at a recent LifeWalk kickoff party. They are, from left, Judith Dumont, administration director with Youth First Texas; Tim Roberts, team captain for the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund; Colin Clayton, a board member for the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund; Roger Wedell, executive director of Legal Hospice of Texas; Melissa Grove, executive director of Legacy Counseling Center; Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS Services of Dallas; Kathy Schroeder, board chair for The Women’s Chorus of Dallas; Bret Camp, associate executive director for Resource Center Dallas; and Robert Cole, director of community relations and marketing for the Turtle Creek Chorale.

"Through LifeWalk, AIDS Arms has the ability to provide that umbrella and do that, at least on one event," she said.

And, Nobles added, a joint event will boost confidence among the agencies’ clients: "It’s important to our clients to see all of us working together this way. Each organization is very, very different. But we all have the same goal: better lives and wellness for our clients."

The event now known as LifeWalk was started in 1990 as a fundraiser for AIDS service organizations in the area. It was owned by Oak Lawn Community Services — which had started its existence as Oak Lawn Counseling Center — until OLCS folded in 1999 and AIDS Arms took over.

Nobles said the 2008 walk brought in $410,000. Nobles said she expects that total to go up this year.

"More people promoting this means more people participating. And hopefully, more people participating means the gross revenue will be larger offering more benefit to our partners and to us," she said.

For each dollar they raise through the walk, partner agencies retain 75 cents. The remaining 25 percent of the proceeds go back into the fund to maintain the infrastructure of the annual event.

But just as important as the money that comes in, Nobles added, are the opportunities for the organizations to reach more people with their messages.

"More agencies participating will hopefully mean more of our clients, more HIV-positive people attending the event," she said.

"The bigger story here is the outreach and the education that can happen through LifeWalk. Dissolving the stigma of HIV and AIDS happens when everyone comes together, HIV-positive and non-positive people coming together on one day to talk and interact.

"When you put a face to the disease, it is a lot harder to turn away from it. You feel compelled to participate when you know someone who is living with this disease," she added.

The 2009 LifeWalk will be held once again in Lee Park. Registration begins at 11 a.m., followed by the walk at 1 p.m.

The event will include live bands, food, beer, games for children and LifeBark, a relatively recent addition to the LifeWalk schedule.

Through LifeBark, pets can participate in LifeWalk with their owners, adding another avenue for fundraising.

"This year we are going to have more beneficiaries, more puppies, more families, more people. We are increasing our diversity every year," Nobles said. "We hope this year it really will be the rainbow we want it to be."

For more information, go online to www.LifeWalk.org.

E-mail nash@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 22, 2009.

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