By Tereasa Nims

More than 1,000 expected for event benefitting Outreach Center

The same year Larry Lode of Fort Worth first tested HIV positive was, coincidentally, the year the first Tarrant County AIDS Walk was held.

And he’s been doing the walk on and off ever since.

"In 1992 it was just empowering," Lode said. "We were all walking for a mutual cause. It was just like, maybe someone will notice — and they did."

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the 16th annual walk beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at the Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St. in Fort Worth.

The actual walk begins at 2:30 p.m. and the event lasts until 5 p.m.

There will be vendors on hand, and Krystal Bryant, who was born with AIDS, is going to speak before the walk begins.

An awards ceremony and raffle will follow the walk. Awards will be given to the top three individuals and teams raising the most money.

Lode said he’s watched the walk grow from a couple hundred the first year to 1,000 walkers in 2007.

AIDS Outreach Center Development Associate Jane Arrowsmith said there are more than 200 people already signed up for the walk and she expects that to more than double on the day of the walk.

"People can register up until the walk begins," Arrowsmith said.

Money raised from the event goes to help the AIDS Outreach Center of Greater Tarrant County. The center was founded in 1986 as the Fort Worth Counseling Center. Tarrant County’s gay and lesbian community started the center in an effort to help provide mental health and legal support for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. The center is the leading organization in Tarrant and eight surrounding rural counties serving men, women and children with HIV and their families, educating the public about HIV prevention and advocating for sound HIV public policy, according to center officials.

The outreach center services include mental health counseling, support groups, nutritional support, youth services, minority outreach, case management, legal assistance, transportation, housing, emergency assistance, insurance continuation program, community education and prevention services, confidential and anonymous testing.

One of the programs that benefits from the fundraiser is the outreach center’s food pantry.

"One thing the outreach center is in dire need of is food," Lode said. "It’s one of my biggest passions. I don’t need it now but I was happy that it was there when I did."

Now Lode has made a commitment to collecting food for it, including doing food drives in his own neighborhood.

Lode said government cutbacks means individuals need to step up to the plate.

"Everybody knows someone HIV Positive," Lode said. "They don’t know it, but they do."

This year Lode has asked his family to help sponsor him for the walk.

"Someone I’ve never involved before is my family," Lode said. In the past two years he and they have been mending a troubled relationship, and this year he asked for their support.

"I hit them up and said you have to get involved," Lode said.

He has also convinced his partner to help raise money and do the walk.

Lode said getting involved and volunteering isn’t only helping others. He finds it personally rewarding as well as enjoyable and social.

"It’s 80 percent me and 20 percent them," he said.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 4, 2008.

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