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

Lone Star Riders will put on their own Parade of Lights between Hurst and Fort Worth on Friday

Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights and Christmas Tree Lighting are the Friday after Thanksgiving (which the folks and I learned the hard way when we tried to hit Cowtown for dinner last year). And now that I think about it, it would have been much, much easier to get to Sundance Square on a bicycle — which is just what some pedalers from the Lone Star Ride intend to do. According to the below e-mail, the riders will light their bikes and decorate their bodies for a 20-mile jaunt from Hurst to downtown. In case you’re wondering, the forecast calls for a high of 52, but maybe the lights will keep them warm. Here’s the info:

Let’s go for a ride to the Fort Worth Parade of Lights!

When – Friday, Nov 26, 2:30pm – until you want to go home

Where – Start from Hurst/Bell Trinity Railway Express Station or NRH TRE station or anywhere on route

Details – Light your bike, decorate your body and let’s ride and have some fun!  We’ll ride to Fort Worth via Trinity Blvd, Randol Mill and Trinity Trail ( about 20 miles?) to watch the Parade of Lights and lighting of Fort Worth’s Christmas tree. You can ride out and ride back to Hurst, you can take the TRE back to Hurst ( if you leave by 9:40pm) you can invite family and friends to meet you in Fort Worth and bum a ride home, or there may be a  possibility of taking the bus ( The Green Weenie II ) back to Hurst. After the parade we can find food and drinks before we head home – your return plans will dictate how much time you have to party before you start back. Bring lights, lock, camera, cash, warm clothes, walkable footwear.

For more info, call Ray Allen at 817-300-8580 or e-mail Mrayallen@aol.com.

—  John Wright

10th Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS comes to a successful conclusion … even if I didn’t

David Taffet’s knee was bandaged up on Monday after his wipeout on Sunday during the Lone Star Ride. To view some much prettier photos from the ride, go here.

On Saturday morning, Lone Star Riders were on their bikes about to take off when the event was postponed for three hours because of rain. The rain didn’t let up and the first day’s ride of the 10th annual Lone Star Ride was eventually canceled completely.

Some thought it was the best thing that could have happened because it gave riders and crew plenty of time to get to know one another.

Day 2 was perfect riding weather. Cool, overcast in the morning and sunny for closing ceremonies.

Two ride options were available for the 200 riders on Sunday. Some opted for the shorter 45-mile ride from the American Airlines Training Center just south of DFW Airport. The ride meandered mostly through Grand Prairie to a turning point south of I-20. The 75-mile ride, which most Lone Star Riders opted for, continued to Ovilla and back.

I wiped out at mile 18.

This was my fifth or sixth ride. I’ve never fallen on a ride. I haven’t fallen since I first took up biking for the old Tanqueray rides from Houston.

Coincidentally, I was about to have the bike techs in the next pit stop check my brakes. The back brake didn’t seem to be holding right. Maybe it was from all the rain. I was, after all, stubborn and went out riding in the rain by myself on Saturday. Anyhow, some riders in front of me stopped short. My front brake worked fine. I swerved to miss the others, and I went over the handlebars using my face to break the fall.

I sagged back to camp with another two riders who collided after a pothole encounter. My bike made it back just before closing ceremonies, repaired by bike techs at the pit. Thanks guys! Even though I was in pain and mortified, I got to ride in with everyone for the closing ceremonies.

Closing ceremonies were moving as always. Valerie Holloway Skinner read her traditional ride poem. Jonathan Palant conducted the Turtle Creek Chorale. As the riderless bike was wheeled to the stage, Chorale member and Poz Pedaler Jim Frederick read a tribute to remember friends and family lost to AIDS.

Tooting own horn:

Team Dallas Voice did great! We had the most team members (57) and raised the most money.

Among Team Dallas Voice members, Gary Karwacki was the #2 crew fundraiser. Greg Hoover was the #1 crew findraiser (for the second year in a row). Among riders, Team Dallas Voice member Brady Allen was the #3 fundraiser.

As of Monday morning, Team Dallas Voice had raised $54,883.80. But we’re not done yet. You can donate online by going to the Lone Star Ride home page and clicking on any participant or team. Plus, Dallas Voice is still selling raffle tickets to benefit this year’s event.

Drawing for two domestic American Airlines tickets will take place Thursday, Sept. 30 at noon. Raffle tickets are $20 and 100 percent of the proceeds goes to Lone Star Ride. And 100 percent of the money Lone Star Riders raise goes to the three beneficiaries: AIDS Services Dallas, Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Outreach Center.

If you would like a raffle ticket, stop by Dallas Voice offices, 4145 Travis St., third floor. Jesse has them at the front desk. Or call a Team Dallas Voice member to get a ticket to you. We can take cash or checks for the raffle.

Proceeds for Lone Star Ride will be distributed at Salum on Oct. 24.

And despite having left part of my face on South Robinson Road in Grand Prairie, I was the first rider to “recycle” (to sign up for next year’s ride). I’ll do the century day then.

—  David Taffet