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

Marvin Hamlisch conducts the Dallas Pops

The way he is

We are starting to think that Oscar-winning conductor Marvin Hamlisch has a thing for Dallas. Or at least he’s making it a habit. He was here almost exactly a year ago to the day. We don’t mind it at all if he’s going to keep playing his music from A Chorus Line, The Way We Were and so much more. After all, he’s helming the DSO pops as its principal conductor. Who wouldn’t get excited?

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m. $22–125. DallasSymphony.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Petraeus Aide Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill: If You Can’t Serve With Gays, Get The Hell Out Of the U.S. Armed Forces

If there are people who cannot deal with the change, then they're going to have to do what's best for their troops and best for the organization and best for the military service and exit the military service, so that we can move forward — if that's the way that we have to go. … We know that if there is a change, that that change will have to be led, and it's going to have to be led by senior leaders such as myself and — and others across the battlefield. Senior leaders are the ones [that are] going to set the tone in the unit and enable the unit to move forward.

—Command Sergeant Major Marvin Hill, a senior aide to NATO's Afghanistan commander David Petraeus (pictured R-L), in an interview that airs tomorrow on Washington Watch. If Don't Ask Don't Tell was a way to rid the military of openly gay soldiers, its repeal is a way to rid the military of openly bigoted soldiers. [via]


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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