Harnessing the power of Green energy for LifeWalk

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Marvin Green
GOING GREEN | Marvin Green founded the LifeWalk Green Team 19 years ago. The team will participate in the 20th annual fundraiser for AIDS Arms next month. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Nineteen years is a long time — especially in the world of HIV/AIDS activism and fundraising, where burnout is common.

But landscape designer Marvin Green and his Green Team this year mark their 19th year as participants in LifeWalk, the annual fundraiser that this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“The Green Team is 19 years old this year, just one year behind LifeWalk. We are the oldest team participating,” Green said this week. “Other teams have come and gone, but the Green Team has managed to keep it together for 19 years.”

The first LifeWalk was held in 1991, presented then by Oak Lawn Community Services. When OLCS closed down, the responsibility for continuing LifeWalk fell to AIDS Arms Inc.

Green said he first heard about LifeWalk in 1992 through an advertisement, and he knew immediately that he wanted to participate. So he recruited two friends, dubbed the small group the Green Team, and showed up that October Sunday afternoon at Lee Park.

Between the three of them, they raised $75, Green recalled.

“I read about the walk and just thought I’d like to do something to help out,” Green said. “I mean, I know I was no angel, and I really dodged a bullet when it came to AIDS. I didn’t have AIDS, but a lot of my friends did. And I wanted to do something to help. I wanted to give back to the community.

“That first year was very sad,” he added. “I cried a lot that day, remembering my friends who had died and thinking about friends who were sick. But there was also joy, the joy of knowing that we were doing something to make a difference.”

Of the two people who walked with him that first time as the Green Team, one has since died and the other has moved away.

In 1993, the Green Team returned to LifeWalk, this time four members: Green, Rob Stewart, Darin Colby and Brian Wolter. Stewart and Colby, Green said, are still on the team today.

In 1996, the Green Team sported its first official T-shirts: White shirts emblazoned with a green lawnmower — riffing on Green’s status as owner of GreenScapes landscaping company — the handle of which was formed by a red ribbon. In later incarnations, the lawnmower/red ribbon logo became smaller, and even later it was replaced by a new logo, a white tennis shoe and a red ribbon on a green shirt, with the slogan, “It’s all in the soul.”

In those early years, Green and his team just collected some money, showed up and walked. But each year, the team grew and became more active, turning their efforts from a one-day-a-year thing to a nearly year-round effort.

So team’s donation continued to rise as the years passed. The Green Team broke the $1,000 mark — $1,670 — by 1995; the very next year, Green Team donated nearly $5,000. Last year, 2009, saw the team’s largest total yet: $19,181. This year, as LifeWalk celebrates its 20th anniversary, Green said the team has set a goal of reaching $20,000.

Now, instead of just showing up on the day of the event and donating, the Green Team works year-round, holding thank-you parties and fundraising events. This year, since LifeWalk will be held on 10-10-2010, Green said his team adopted the plan of holding 10 events in 10 months, starting in January with the WinterGreen Party at The Brick.

“We were the first team this year to start bringing in money. We raised $1,600 at that party. The Brick was very nice and helped us out a lot; all the girls in the show let us have the tips that made that night. There were 10 performers, so that was a nice amount,” Green said.

The team has also continued to grow in size. After starting with just three people that first year, the Green Team for 2010 has 37 members.

“We’ve got big things planned for next year, too, when we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Green Team,” Green added. “We will have the WinterGreen Party again, and performing arts shows, car washes, garage sales, a wine tasting, pageants. And we do an event at the parade each year. Caven gives us space to set up a booth on Cedar Springs, and we take donations for bottled water, sodas and other things. And all that money goes to LifeWalk.”

Green admits that burnout did become a factor at one point in the history of the Green Team.

“About 10 years ago, I was starting to get really burned out. But then, I had a meeting with Jay Nolan of the Guys and Dolls Team. We went out to dinner, and he was giving me a lot of advice, telling me things like designate tasks to other team members instead of trying to do it all myself. He said we should get co-captains each year.

“So I started doing some of those things, and it really relieved a lot of the stress,” Green said.

In addition to being captain of the Green Team, Green has also become more involved with the inner workings of LifeWalk and is now on the steering committee that plans and executes the event each year.

But he is quick to spread around the credit for the ongoing success of the Green Team.

“Even though I started the team, I couldn’t keep doing it without the help of my whole team. We have a great group of team members who do so much to get us to our goal each year,” he said. “And I have to give a special thanks to my partner, John Castro, too, for putting up with all the long hours I spend on LifeWalk each year. Thank you John, for all your patience.”

What really keeps him going, though, is his memories of the friends he has lost and thinking about all the people who continue to live a daily battle against HIV/AIDS.
“My whole group of friends I was with in the ’80s and early ’90s are gone now,” Green said. “I have lost 25 friends to AIDS. I have held people’s hands as they died.

“People today don’t seem to know about all that, about how it was. They think you just take a drug cocktail and everything’s okay. They need to know how it really is,” Green continued. “I thought we’d have a cure by now, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Not any time soon. So these funds are still desperately needed. Organizations like AIDS Arms need the money to be able to take care of those who are already sick, and to educate people to stop the spread of AIDS.

“There’s still such a desperate need for it, so I can’t stop. I won’t stop.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in Lee Park. People can register to participate up until the time the walk begins for LifeWalk and for LifeBark, the part of the event that lets people participate with their pets. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

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

—  Michael Stephens