LifeWalk: A big party for a big anniversary

Posted on 26 Aug 2010 at 9:22pm

20th annual LifeWalk steps off Oct. 10, will benefit 9 ASOs

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Lifewalk
WALKING FOR A CAUSE | Participants in the 20th annual LifeWalk in October can choose any one of 10 partner organizations to benefit from the funds they raise.

Twenty years is a long time for a fundraising event to stay active, not to mention successful. And a 20th anniversary calls for a special celebration.

And that’s exactly what AIDS Arms has planned for the 20th annual LifeWalk set for Sunday, Oct. 10 at Lee Park.

As the event marks its 20th year, AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said, “One of the things we wanted to do, right out of the gate, was increase our partnerships within the nonprofit community, to increase the number of partner agencies that would benefit from LifeWalk.

“We had four partner agencies last year. This year, we have nine. There are 10 organizations, counting AIDS Arms,” she said.

LifeWalk was created in 1991 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency folded, AIDS Arms took over, each year inviting other AIDS service organizations in the community to participate.

Nobles said organizers this year made a point to reach out to all the ASOs still in existence that had benefited from AIDS Arms in the past, asking them to participate again.

And the nine that are partnering with AIDS Arms for the event have the opportunity to add significantly to their coffers, she said.

“Every partner agency gets all the tools they need to have a successful LifeWalk team,” Nobles said. “They can potentially make a lot of money for themselves. It’s sort of the same model as the Black Tie Dinner. With Black Tie, beneficiaries can more or less write their own check, depending on how many tables they sell, how many raffle tickets they sell and how many volunteer hours they put in.

“What they get in return is the infrastructure for a very established event here in Dallas, and they can use that to benefit their organizations,” Nobles said.

It’s very similar with LifeWalk: Each agency works to get people to raise money and walk, and the money raised in an agency’s name goes to that agency, she explained.

Nobles said that LifeWalk strives each year to bring in enough sponsorships to completely cover the costs of staging the event, and they have reached that goal again this year. That means that “every penny that the walkers earn” goes to either AIDS Arms or one of the nine other beneficiary organizations.

“Of every dollar the beneficiaries raise, they keep 75 cents. The other 25 cents comes back to LifeWalk for next year’s event. That allows us to create an investment account to secure the future of the event, and it gives every beneficiary unrestricted funds to use however they need to,” Nobles said.

LifeWalk, Nobles continued, is a great example of the benefits of working together.

“The issue of collaboration is so important in this [HIV/AIDS] community. We all depend on each other so heavily these days, and this is one more opportunity for us to come together under one cause and help each of our individual organizations grow stronger .

“We [as organizations] may be very different from one another. We may not always agree with each other. But we are all here for the same reason,” she said. “And LifeWalk is an excellent platform to show the community that we can and do work together and partner together on behalf of our clients.”

In another nod to the past, all of the previous LifeWalk chairs have been invited to participate in the 20th anniversary celebration, Nobles said.

“We are hunting down, if you will, all the previous chairs, and we have been able to locate quite a few of them. Many of them still live in Dallas,” she said. “There is a group of previous chairs who have reaching out to the community, working to remind folks about LifeWalk, telling them, ‘Hey, this is why we were involved, and still are involved, in this event. This is the impact it can have on our community.”

Nobles said it has been gratifying for her to hear the stories of past LifeWalk chairs and to hear that so many of the people who were involved in past years are still supportive of the event.

“Many of them still attend LifeWalk every year, and they have some very personal reasons for doing so. It has been very moving for us to hear those stories,” she said. “Many of them will be at the 20th anniversary, and we are very proud that we can have them there to let everyone acknowledge the history and their contributions and what they have been able to build through this event.”

LifeBark — the LifeWalk co-event created several years ago to allow people to bring their dogs to the event and use their pets to widen their fundraising options — is “still howling,” Nobles said.

“There will be registration available for all the pups who want to walk and wag their tails for a good cause. There will be doggie games and treats and all kinds of vendors. And Operation Kindness will be there, too, with dogs available for adoption,” she noted.

LifeWalk representatives will be selling raffle tickets for the 2011 Mercedes Benz that will be raffled off during Black Tie Dinner in November, and there will be free HIV testing available to anyone who wants to get tested. Plus, there will be LifeWalk raffles for a new living room suite and for two American Airlines tickets to “anywhere American flies,” Nobles said.

The Buster Brown Band, which Nobles described as a “lively jazz band,” will be entertaining in Lee Park for LifeWalk, as will Darcell, a Dallas native who is coming back from Los Angeles to perform. And Dallas Pride Cheer will be on hand as well.

Nobles said AIDS Arms is proud that LifeWalk is one of the first local events to get the “family-friendly” seal of approval from the Human Rights Campaign’s local Family Equality Committee.

“There will be lots of things for the kids and teenagers to do, as well as the adults,” she said.

Although some teams have been working for months to raise money for LifeWalk, there will be plenty of people there walking as individuals, too, Nobles said.

And individuals will be able to register and participate right up until the time the walk steps off.

“All you have to do is show up at Lee Park that day and pay the $30 registration fee and get the T-shirt that comes with the registration fee,” Nobles said. “You can download the form from LifeWalk.org and turn it in that day, or you can register online, or you can just come out and register that day. Just show up at noon and walk. It’s as easy as that.”

Although LifeWalk is permeated with an air of celebration and fun, Nobles said she also wants people to remember the very serious reasons behind the walk.

“The HIV epidemic is doing nothing but growing right now in Dallas,” she said. “There are some great things happening to help fight that epidemic, and LifeWalk is a very important avenue for people to use to help us reach the goals we’ve set to be successful for our clients.

“We hope everyone will come on out, enjoy the anniversary celebration, enjoy the party and enjoy doing something good for somebody who really needs your help.”

For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

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