Organizers hoping for more than 10,000 walkers to gather in Lee Park to raise money for 10 AIDS service organizations in Dallas
Tammye Nash | Senior Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
About 62 new teams have registered to participate in the 20th annual LifeWalk on Sunday, Oct. 10, according to AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles.
“That’s the most new teams in one year that we have ever had,” Nobles said. “We have all our established teams coming back, plus the 62 new teams. That’s a little more than 200 teams total that will be walking.”
And that’s not counting the people who haven’t registered yet and will be walking as individuals instead of with a team.
“A lot of people never join a team. They just show up on Sunday, register on their own and walk. And those individuals usually bring someone with them — a partner or other family member or a friend or a pet. We never know until the day of the walk how many people will be participating,” Nobles said.
She said nearly 10,000 people participated in the 2009 LifeWalk, “and we assume we will meet that number again this year, if not exceed it. We hope we will exceed it, of course.”
The fundraising goal for the 20th LifeWalk is set at $500,000, which will be divided between AIDS Arms, which presents the event, and the 10 other beneficiaries.
“That’s huge, we know. Year before last, we raised $430,000, and last year we just about hit $400,000. The economic recession hit us hard last year, but we are hoping to really bounce back from that this year.”
The fundraising goal for the walk is based on the needs of the beneficiaries, Nobles said. “We tell the [LifeWalk] steering committee what we need, and the committee approves that as the goal. Then they [committee members] have to go out there and make it happen.”
The recession, Nobles said, has impacted AIDS service organizations in more ways than one. While donors have had to cut back on how much they are able to give, agencies are at the same time seeing more people who need help.
“What’s happening, across the board, is that there are just far too many clients needing help than we have the capacity to help,” Nobles said. “All of us [AIDS service organizations] are just way beyond our capacity. All of us need funding to expand that capacity and serve the fast-growing segment of people who are HIV-positive.”
And the proceeds from LifeWalk are especially helpful because the beneficiary agencies can use those funds however they want.
“Grant money is always extremely restricted money,” Nobles explained. “You can only spend grant money on the specific things that the funder has approved. And most often, those grant dollars don’t pay for the tools we need to do our jobs — things like computers, prevention supplies, testing supplies.
“Grant money usually doesn’t cover the costs of expanded media in new formats, those new ways to use new avenues to reach out with education and prevention efforts,” she continued. “For example, here at AIDS Arms, we love to do our ‘Lunch and Learn’ program. It’s where we invite clients to come in and we feed them, and as they have lunch we educate them on some aspect of living with AIDS. But all that goes by the wayside when there are no unrestricted funds available.”
And that’s why LifeWalk is so important. Because the funds it brings in are completely unrestricted.
Nobles said AIDS Arms officials hope to be able to use LifeWalk funds this year to bring in new equipment for the Peabody Clinic.
“We have a long list of equipment we need to diagnose, track and monitor the health of our clients,” she said.
“This time around, cardiovascular care is a huge need in our HIV patients, and we need equipment to be able to respond to that need in a better way. I don’t think the general public really understands that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 health risk for a lot of HIV patients. That’s particularly true as the patient population ages.
And that makes the management of HIV disease that much more complicated. We have to stay on top of all of it.
You have to treat the whole person.”
Registration for LifeWalk opens at noon on Sunday, and the walk steps off at 1 p.m. Walkers will move up Turtle Creek Boulevard, go through the West Village and then circle through Uptown and back to Lee Park.
There will be activities and entertainment going on throughout the day in the park, including the Buster Brown Band, a DJ playing music, Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe, games for the children, food, beverages and more, Nobles said.
Also during the day, in honor of the 20th anniversary, past LifeWalk co-chairs will be recognized from the stage.
“It’s going to be very family friendly, and very dog friendly. There will be several vendors with booths, and there will be a health fair with free HIV testing available on-site all day,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Nobles acknowledged that the reason behind LifeWalk is very serious, and that there are likely to be some sad moments as organizers and participants remember friends and family members who have died.
But the fun side of the event is also important.
“Everyone knows that we do this for very serious reasons, that the epidemic is still killing people and that our dollars are going to help with serious needs,” Nobles said. “But people need to have some relief from that seriousness, too. People get burned out. It’s called ‘compassion fatigue.’ And they need to be able to celebrate life; we need to celebrate the memories of those we have lost and we need to celebrate the lives of those who are living with this disease.
“There are people who have lived with this since the day the epidemic began, and we need to celebrate their lives, their tenacity and their courage,” Nobles said. “And LifeWalk is a great way to do that, because you know that every dollar that comes into LifeWalk goes to programs that directly help clients. Close to 20,000 people depend on the AIDS services organizations in Dallas, and the money from LifeWalk goes to help them. You can make an investment in the future of a lot of people through LifeWalk.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.