LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Fighting the good fight with LifeWalk

Robert Moore and Ray Warner
RECOGNITION | Robert Moore, left, presents three-time LifeWalk co-chair Ray Warner with LifeWalk’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009.

This is the third in a series of columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice leading up to the 20th anniversary of the event on Sunday, Oct. 10.

Ray Warner Special Contributor

Because of my involvement with Nelson-Tebedo Health Clinic as an HIV counselor and phlebotomist, a good friend asked me one day if I would be interested in joining the AIDS Arms LifeWalk steering committee for 2005.

“Are you crazy?!” I answered. “I don’t have time to volunteer with another agency.”

But I said I would go to the event and see what it was all about.

Somehow I found the time to volunteer at both places, manage a home and still work full time.

The steering committee was made up of both past committee members and new members, and the people I met that day were a wonderful group. So I joined, and I had a really great time planning and doing fundraisers.

When the day of the walk finally arrived, I felt like I worked my butt off. But at the end of the day, when they let us know how much unrestricted money had been raised, I suddenly did not feel so tired. In fact, I was very excited about getting started for LifeWalk 2006.

Several months before the committee was to meet, I got a call from my friend Bill telling me that AIDS Arms had a new director of development, named Margaret Byrne. I had not met her yet so Margaret, Bill and I met for lunch. And that, as they say, is how it all began.

Bill was asked to be LifeWalk chair, and he suggested me as his co-chair. I was so honored to be ask to do something with an organization that I was passionate about.

During the 2006 LifeWalk, we raised nearly $100,000 more than we had raised in 2005. The steering committee built a float for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and won the “Carson Kressley Trophy” for best costumes.

I was co-chair again in 2007, and again we raised even more money than we had the previous year. And we won yet another trophy in the parade, this time bringing home the “Queen Latifa Trophy” for best nonprofit.

Then came 2008, and once again I was LifeWalk co-chair, the first person to be co-chair for three years in a row. That was a huge honor for me, especially being in such a great group of co-chairs, both past and present. We again exceeded our fundraising goals in 2008. And when Margaret Byrne and Robert Moore presented me with the Volunteer of the Year Award at the 2009 LifeWalk, I was surprised and honored beyond belief.

I am so honored to have held the position of LifeWalk with such a great group of family, because, believe me, it is just like a family. We argued like brothers and sisters. There were ups and downs. But just like a family, we had each others’ backs.

Bottom line, raising money to help the clients of AIDS Arms and the other LifeWalk beneficiaries is the most important task at hand.Volunteering just a little bit of your time is so important to a nonprofit agency. These agencies are very special to my heart; some of my best friends are living with HIV, and some others have already lost their battles with the virus.

I know that a cure will be found so that no one else has to lose the battle. You can help. Get out there and volunteer for LifeWalk, walk, or just tell others about this wonderful event. I hope that I see you as I walk with the Nelson-Tebedo Team on Sunday, Oct. 10.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Friendships of a lifetime from LifeWalk

Editor’s note: This is the second on a series of four columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice leading up to the 20th anniversary of the event on Oct. 10.

Deiadra Burns | Special contributor

Deiadra Burns, left, her partner, Sandra Howell, and their dog, Tesuque.
Deiadra Burns, left, her partner, Sandra Howell, and their dog, Tesuque.

I moved to Dallas in 1995 and at the time was living in the closet as a young, single lesbian Republican.

A neighbor and dear friend, Kathy Hewitt, asked if I would volunteer for LifeWalk. I believe it was simply because I had a big truck and she thought I was a fit to help out with operations and the route.

It’s all history from there.

I served on the committee for six years, co-chairing the event the last two of those years.

It was a humbling experience to help those in need and to volunteer for a wonderful agency. My eyes were opened to the LGBT community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and all that it can do for an individual.

It gave me strength, empowerment and friendships of a lifetime.

LifeWalk holds a special place in my and my partner Sandra Howell’s hearts.

Sandra has spent most of her career fighting infectious disease as a pharmacist in the community, and I simply like to give back to the community by volunteering and raising money. LifeWalk brought us together, and it is an event that we have shared in our relationship and throughout our family.

All of the many friends we volunteered with while we both served on the committee are true friends and “family” now.

While there are so many special memories over the years, one of our most memorable LifeWalks was the first year LifeWalk teamed up with Luke’s Locker and a race was added. We had several friends win in their perspective categories (including Sandra) and it was also the first year we were able to take our pup, Tesuque, to the walk. He was the first dog to cross the finish line!!

I hope you will all join us all in the LifeWalk spirit for the 20th anniversary. AIDS Arms is a great agency, and LifeWalk is a great event and a great fundraiser that provides for our community — both straight and gay.

The 20th anniversary AIDS Arms LifeWalk takes place Sunday, Oct. 10, beginning at 1 p.m. at Lee Park. To register, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Looking back on 20 years of LifeWalk

By Dan Gueths Special contributor

Dan Gueths and Del Shores
2008 MEMORY | Dan Gueths, left, with 2008 LifeWalk Honorary Co-Chair Del Shores.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice, leading up to the 20th anniversary event on Oct. 10.

What is now the start of my 16th  year of involvement with LifeWalk started with just a simple question from two friends and co-workers. In 1994, James Youngblood was LifeWalk co-chair and Leigh Ann Stockard, who went on to also serve as co-chair, approached me and asked if I would like to help with LifeWalk.

For us, as for many, the reason to get involved was very personal. The three of us had two incredibly funny, personable and dear co-workers, Todd LeBlanc and Marty Rizzo, that we lost too soon to HIV/AIDS. Leigh Ann and I went and sat many an afternoon with Marty when he was homebound. But we lost many more friends and acquaintances, too, and there were more to come, including, over the years, many of my good friends that used to play for the Hunky’s softball team.

The first year I was involved, I set out cones along the LifeWalk route. I enjoyed the experience, so I agreed to help out again the next year, and then the next, etc. For the next several years, I served on the steering committee in logistics and recruitment, eventually being the committee chair for Operations.

I am honored to have served as LifeWalk event co-chair in 2008 and 2009. I had to think long and hard about being agreeing to fill the position — the duties are not easy. But the rewards I reaped in personal satisfaction far outweighed the workload and responsibility.

Another huge reward along the journey has been working with some very dedicated people who volunteer their time and talents, people like Mary Marshall, Jay Nolen, Keith Hickman, Terry Walker, Sandra Howell, Carter Brown, the TGRA (which always responds to the call for help), just to name a very few. But the list has no end.

As LifeWalk marks its 20th year, it is for me both monumental and bittersweet. It is a great achievement that LifeWalk has grown and raised millions of dollars that has provided for so many. But it is bittersweet that it continues to be a necessary that LifeWalk has more anniversaries.

This 20th anniversary year is also a time to reflect and remember: To remember the need for the event, to remember those that we have lost, to reflect on how we can move forward and encourage and educate a new generation and populations that are still unaware of the facts about HIV. Now is the time to remember those that took the initiative and accepted the challenge and the responsibility of creating and forming a community event to answer the needs of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

When it first started, LifeWalk was organized under the auspices of Oak Lawn Community Services. Many people in the community received invaluable services from OLCS and many individuals that served and volunteered for that agency, among them the incredible, inspirational Martha Dealey, have established themselves as great assets to the LGBT community and continued to provide service and mentorship to countless numbers.

AIDS Arms partnered with, and eventually assumed full sponsorship of LifeWalk. AIDS Arms has guided and nurtured the event so that the awareness and monies raised have continued to assist those that are in need.

There is a treasure trove of memories I have from this time, and some that truly stand out: Lisa Loeb performing for three years; walking through Neiman Marcus as part of the route; port-a-potties being blown over into the street the years the event was held in downtown; the return to Lee Park; the year the radios were delivered with no antennas and the Dallas Amateur Radio Club pulled us through; Jason Huff singing the national anthem; the Turtle Creek Chorale and Women’s Chorus of Dallas performing; Margaret Byrne and Scott Duncan meeting in Lee Park and getting married this year; and so many more. These are memories that will last me a lifetime.

But the thing that stands out and means the most — and this happens every year — is someone coming up and saying, “Thank you for all you are doing; it means the world to me.”

I could write volumes about the commitment and dedication of those individuals that co-chaired the first LifeWalk and those that followed. One of the focuses for the 20th anniversary is the opportunity to honor these individuals, and I cannot say enough to thank them for their service, and I hope that everyone who reads this article will take the time and effort to pass along a thank you, as well.

The co-chairs that have served over the last 20 year are Fred York, Barbara O’Brien, Carolyn Roney, Bruce Russell, Roger Bolen, Sara Reidy, James Youngblood, Kathy Hewitt, Steve Habgood, Leigh Ann Stockard, Gregory Pynes, Deiadra Burns, John Woodyard, Wendi Rothschild, Jerry MacDonald, Elizabeth Brown, Bill Carter, Ray Warner, Scott Kersh and Fred Harris — and me.

This 20th anniversary LifeWalk is both call to action and a time to celebrate. There is still much work to be done.

We have a saying that we hope some year we won’t need LifeWalk  — because the work and dedication of researchers, doctors, caregivers, advocates, case workers, service agencies and volunteers will have come to fruition and we will have eliminated HIV/AIDS. What a celebration that would bring!

But for now we celebrate our small successes both past and present. I can’t say enough about the importance of everyone getting involved. The community is what its peoples contribute, and the community is you!

The 20th anniversary LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 10, at Lee Park. For more information or to register to participate, go online to AIDSLifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens