By Sharon Gittleman
Over 250 teenagers from Grosse Pointe North High School participated in Steppin' Out AIDS Walk this weekend, raising over $8,000. Photo by Khristian Speelman.
ROYAL OAK – Danielle Dipert said she couldn't believe her eyes. Dipert marched shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of Grosse Pointe youths last Sunday at the 13th annual Steppin' Out AIDS Walk Detroit.
"It was almost an overwhelming feeling when that morning I saw over 250 teenagers there," said Dipert, a teacher at Grosse Pointe North High School. "I'm so proud of them. It really shows this stereotype of self-centered teens isn't true. My kids care about their schools, the community they live in and the world community."
Nearly 20 percent of the High School's student body attended the walk, raising over $8,000 to help pay for prevention projects and service programs for people with AIDS. According to Dipert, most students got their contributions from family and friends.
The youths first marched in the 5-kilometer walk three years ago, when 50 students volunteered, said Dipert. The teens conducted their charitable efforts in conjunction with their homecoming celebrations.
"We wanted to do something beyond making a float," said Dipert. "The kids wanted to do something to give to a charity."
Senior Andrea Sheridan, 17 walked in the weekend fund-raiser.
"It's a great charity and something that is at the forefront of everyone's minds," said Sheridan. "It's something that's not beaten yet and there is still a long way to go."
According to Steppin' Out AIDS Walk Detroit executive director Rick Lee, the Grosse Pointe North youths joined 31 other high school teams and one junior high group at the event.
"The kids walking means two things to our organization," said Lee "They raised money and they learned about HIV-AIDS."
The youths joined 6,000 other walkers to raise over $300,000 at the event, with the help of 39 corporate sponsors, including BTL. The final tally won't be known for several more weeks as funds continue to come in. Lee said Berkley High School brought an 83-member team of walkers and youngsters from Hazel Park's Beecher Junior High School also participated.
According to Lee, these youths made a real difference in the everyday lives of people living with HIV.
"The money could be used for a prevention program that MAPP is doing or it could mean the HELP Fund kept someone with HIV-AIDS who couldn't pay their rent from being thrown out of their apartment," said Lee.
Sheridan and her classmates plan to continue their charitable good works by assisting Habitat for Humanity's efforts building homes for poor people and by participating in other groups' fund-raiser walks.
"I think for teenagers to crawl out on a Sunday morning to show care and concern for other people is a wonderful thing," said Grosse Pointe North High School Principal Jim Steeby. "I shouldn't be surprised by their outpouring of generosity and compassion, but still when you see those kinds of numbers – the students who were there and the amount they raised, you look and say, 'wow, it's all good.' And, I don't know there is any cause that moves forward without a champion and Danielle is ours."
Dipert praised her students' efforts.
"I really firmly believe if we set up things like this, these kids are ready and willing to go out and lend a helping hand," she said. "They have good hearts."