“A lot of young people are doing things they shouldn’t, thinking nothing will happen to them,” said long time AIDS Walk Detroit participant David Agius.
Though this is only one of the reasons he believes in the massive AIDS Walk fundraisers, it is one of the most important. People are still getting sick. People are still dying. The epidemic is not over.
“It doesn’t get the print like it used to in the 70s and 80s,” Agius said regretfully. “The walk used to get a lot of publicity too, but things have changed. The media focuses on marriage. Volunteers get burned out after a while. We do see more young people getting involved though. The most inspiring thing is to see the challenges between the different high schools.”
He said that a few years ago Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe South teams challenged each other to see who could raise the most money. Since then other high schools and universities have joined in, including Franklin High School, Oakland University and two groups from Wayne State.
It also brings out corporate teams, raising funds from otherwise untapped sources of corporations, employees and employee friends and family. Compuware, Beaumont Hospital and Fifth Third Bank are among those involved this year.
Agius has been involved for nearly as long as the walks have been going on.
“I’ve got several friends who passed away, close friends,” he said. In addition to walking to raise money for HELP (Health Emergency Lifeline Programs), Agius sits on their board. He also works to support a Children’s Hospital summer camp program for kids with HIV and AIDS. And he is also on the committee that brings the AIDS Quilt to Michigan whenever it makes an appearance, which is done through the Names Project.
Twenty panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on hand for the opening ceremony of AIDS Walk Detroit in Royal Oak on Sept. 15. “I’ve got friends and family who made quilt squares in honor of those who have died,” he said. “It’s very important to me.”
Many Walks To Choose From
There are many AIDS Walks around the state, and it’s easy for people to donate online or to sign up to walk. Participants can walk for a designated charity or they can walk in general for the cause.
Terry Ryan, CEO of Michigan AIDS Coalition walks for his organization, which so far has over 20 people on their team for AIDS Walk Detroit. The event raises a few thousand dollars for MAC, which is not a lot compared to other fundraisers like DIFFA, but they help in other ways.
“It’s a signature mark for us to be able to acknowledge that folks continue to come and walk every year,” he said. “It’s a sign that there is sustainability from donors walking to support a cause.” He also values the opportunity to “bring as much exposure as possible” to the need to continue fighting the spread of the epidemic.
Having multiple AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) working together is a part of AIDS Walk that warms Ryan’s heart. “Every dollar counts for the agencies and working together benefits us all,” he said.
Organizations statewide collaborate on the walks, and as funding becomes scarcer and changes happen to state and federal funding mechanisms, working together becomes more and more important. MAC recently teamed up with AIDS Partnership Michigan to pilot a shared giving program called Red Ribbon Remembrance through which donors can write one check that gets shared among participating organizations. They are looking to expand this to include more groups.
AIDS Walk Detroit takes place in Royal Oak on Sept. 15 beginning at the Farmer’s Market at 316 E 11 Mile Rd. This walk is independent from the others around the state, which are tied together under the name of AIDS Walk Michigan.
AIDS Walk Michigan has six events scheduled.
Sept. 20 is the kick-off in Detroit, with a nighttime walk along the Detroit River, complete with glow sticks.
Sept. 21 the walk takes place in the Great Lakes Bay Region, serving Bay City, Saginaw and Midland.
On Sept. 28 there are two walks. One is in Jackson at the Riverwalk Amphitheatre. The other is for Central Michigan and is held at Island Park in Mt. Pleasant.
Then on Sept.29 there will be the final two of the walk season. AIDS Walk Michigan Ann Arbor will take place at the Detroit Edison Building in Ann Arbor, and AIDS Walk Michigan Lansing Area will be at the Valley Court Park in E. Lansing.
For more information on any of the AIDS Walk Michigan events, go to their website athttp://www.aidswalkmichigan.org. For more on AIDS Walk Detroit, visit http://www.aidswalkdetroit.org. Both sites have the ability for people to donate who are unable to attend the event.