AIDS Outreach Center moves annual walk; new focus helps center better serve the LGBT community


Holly Edwards, left, with Scout, and former board president, right Kelly Smith with Gus. Lorie Kinler in center.


JAMES RUSSELL  |  Staff Writer

After 23 years, the Tarrant County AIDS Walk has changed its name and moved from spring to fall. The AIDS Walk will now be the Hope Walk, slated for Sunday, Oct. 25, “but the cause hasn’t changed,” said Sarina Harz, development associate at AOC.

The move just fits with the center’s current rebranding efforts, she said.

Currently, AOC’s two biggest events are the walk and Evening of Hope gala in May. Moving and rebranding simply balances the growth of their two major special events, Harz said.

Walk--picture-2011“We wanted to rebrand the walk to keep consistent with our message, which is that we offer help for today and hope for tomorrow.

Each event has a theme of offering hope, because that is what we provide beyond the immediate help our services offer,” she explained.

Rebranding, restructuring and moving the walk from spring to fall allows AOC to stay true to its mission, which changed this past summer to also align with the organization’s goals.

“We have changed our mission and vision statements to better serve our communities, especially the LGBTQ community,” said Shannon Hilgart, executive director of AOC. “‘Serving people living with and at risk for HIV with dignity and respect’ is our new mission statement, and you will start to see changes unfold very soon. Our vision statement is, ‘In our community people living with HIV have access to quality care and new infections are rare.’”

To serve people living with or at risk for HIV with dignity and respect, Harz said, you have to go deeper.

Board President Cheryl McDonald said the change was also necessary given the evolution of treatment for those living with HIV. “As the epidemic of HIV has changed, so too [is our strategy]. As president of the board of AOC, as well as a physician who treats patients with HIV, I see firsthand the difference AOC makes in our patients’ lives. The funds raised with the Hope Walk allow us to continue to fulfill our mission, serving clients with dignity and respect.”

And what better way to do that than instill hope?”

Harz added, “We want that mission to go deeper than just a saying, we want to embody it in everything we do, including our special events.”


Matt, Jeremy and Ana

Those statements reflect the quality of AOC’s work. A staff of 30 provides 10 services to 1,600 people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in Tarrant and seven rural counties.

The realignment isn’t just a fundraising ploy; it’s an effort to humanize their work.

“We share the stories of the people we serve in order to inspire hope in our community. Yes, this disease can bring on some dark periods in someone’s life, but we want them to know that even when things seem dark, we are there to help them make it through — to be a beacon of light, a beacon of hope,” she said remain undiminished.

For example, organizers have even added a “Heels for Hope Dash,” a fun run where participants run, or fall, in their high heels. Awards will be given out for best-looking heels.

Harz is confident the event will reach its goal of raising $75,000 and engage at least 350 walkers. Sign up parties at bars and restaurants in Tarrant County have helped them reach their goal.

“It’s poetic actually that Hope Walk is in the fall,” Harz said. “That is the season when we begin to enter the darkness, foreshadowing winter. But here we are, ready to stand together, have fun, and help instill light and hope into the lives of the people we serve and the greater community.”


Hope Walk Info box

Sunday, Oct. 25
Hope Walk
Benefits AIDS Outreach Center
1:30-5 p.m.
Trinity Park Pavilion
2300 W. Seventh St.
Fort Worth

1:30 p.m.: Music by DJ David Moore, Jr.
1:45 p.m.: Speaker Sandra Ford
2 p.m.: Hope Walk
3:15 p.m.: Heels for Hope Dash (.5K)
3:30 p.m.: Awards and Prize Presentation
3:45 p.m.: Velvet Love Box

Individuals: $25
Students: $15
Dogs: $10

To register visit For more
information contact Kristi Wiley at
817-916-5256 or

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.