Fort Worth’s AIDS Outreach Center renames event ‘Dash for Hope’ and adds 5K run to mark anniversary
FORT WORTH — Michelle Barefield has braved freezing temperatures and rain with the AIDS Outreach Center’s annual walk for 19 years to bring people one thing: hope.
Director of outreach and prevention services, Barefield has worked for AOC since the late ’80s. She started out as a volunteer and became a full-time employee, serving on the planning committee for the annual AIDS walk several times.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the walk, which is an official 5K with the addition of a run this year. The name is also different, Dash for Hope, taking on an encouraging slogan for the future.
Barefield said the walk started small two decades ago. Now, the run has about 600 participants, planning committee co-chair Cheryl McDonald said.
Attendance of about 800 is expected with the addition of the run this year.
“Because we’ve added the run, that’s a different dimension and a different group of people that would come out for that,” McDonald said. “That’s a whole new arena for us.”
The 5K walk and run are Sunday, April 1, at Trinity Park pavilion on West Seventh Street in Fort Worth.
While the planning committee could change the name of the event again next year, McDonald said the positive outlook with the name may make it stick in the future.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the addition of a run that really seems to be generating a lot of enthusiasm, so I think given that we’d probably keep the name,” she said.
While AOC wanted to create a way to make to annual walk bigger and draw more participation with the run, McDonald said the change was also in honor of the anniversary.
“We really wanted to sort of celebrate this in a different way because this was the 20th anniversary, and it’s always such a great event and we wanted to bring even more energy to it,” she said.
The event is the center’s largest fundraiser and brings in about $100,000 each year. However, the proceeds have dwindled about 40 percent since 2006, Development and
Marketing Director Jim Downing wrote in an email.
Barefield said she thought her job would no longer be needed in 1995 after the advent of antiretroviral medication. But the need for her and the services of AOC have only increased.
“One of the things that we are seeing is that people are living longer and their life expectancy can be the same as anybody else’s if they take the medication,” she said, adding that what people really need sometimes is a hopeful outlook. “The thing people needed the most that didn’t have was hope. What we do is we help people with hope everyday.”
Barefield said she wants the event to attract more walkers and especially runners to remind people that AIDS still impacts many people in their community that need the medication and support AOC provides.
“The difference between people who make it with HIV and those that don’t is hope,” Barefield said.
Dash to the finish
Dash for Hope is at Trinity Park in Fort Worth from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 1. Registration for the Dash for Hope is $30 before the event and $35 the day of the event. For more information or to register, visit www.firstgiving.com/aocwalk.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 30, 2012.