By Desi Rubio, October 2015 Issue.
Throughout the Grand Canyon State, AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention is gaining momentum as event organizers join forces for 2015’s AIDS Walk Arizona.
This year marks the second consecutive year that three separate walks will occur in the state within a one-month window.
“Bringing awareness to HIV is paramount and I believe that by creating a unified effort, we have a chance to elevate awareness throughout the state,” said Kit Kloeckl, Aunt Rita’s Foundation’s executive director.
The first walk, AIDS Walk Northern Arizona (NAZ) benefitting Northland Cares, is scheduled for Sept. 26 at Ken Lindley Park in Prescott. The second walk, the 27th annual AIDS Walk Tucson benefitting Southern AIDS Association Foundation (SAAF), is scheduled for Oct. 11 at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Jacome Plaza.
AIDS Walk Northern AZ
For the second year, AIDS Walk Northern AZ (NAZ) 2015, which represents Arizona’s northern communities, including Flagstaff, Sedona and Prescott, invites walkers, teams, children and pets from across the state to participate.
Northland Cares, an organization dedicated to providing a full range of services for HIV/AIDS patients in northern Arizona, will be hosting the event.
“What we want more than anything is to raise awareness in order to save lives and reduce stigma,” said Tricia Goffena-Beyer, Northland Cares executive director.
AIDS Walk NAZ is the newest addition to AIDS Walk Arizona. And, while it may still be small in numbers, its message is mighty.
Funds raised will benefit the various services the organization offers, including support for counseling, housing, medicine and testing.
Last year AIDS Walk NAZ raised just over $7,000 and, according to event organizers, this year’s goal is to double those funds.
According to Goffena-Beyer, about 190 people in Yavapai County depend upon the services of Northland Cares and she hopes this year’s AIDS walk will help raise awareness around the stigma and discrimination for individual living with HIV/AIDS.
According to event organizers, there have been significant efforts made to grow participation as well. This year, event organizers are hoping for 150 walkers and at least 15 teams.
“These are real life tragedies that are preventable and we should all be interested in preventing them for the good of this world,” Goffena-Beyer said. “HIV is a communicable disease – that means it takes everyone working together to learn the facts, get tested and know your status.”
The walk will begin at 10 a.m. and will take place at Ken Lindley Part in Prescott.
“We will be highly visible within the city as we will have a route that takes us down and around the Courthouse Square where there are a variety of other activities happening,” Goffena-Beyer said.
Along the route, Goffena-Beyer said walkers can expect snacks and water as well as volunteers to cheer them on along.
Additionally, walkers are invited to participate in the PAWS For the Cause portion of the fundraiser. For $10, walkers can register to bring their friendly pets to walk with them. Each registered pet will receive bandana and bag of treats.
“We love dogs, we love people and people and dogs should love to walk with us,” Goffena-Beyer said.
AIDS Walk Tucson
Two weeks after AIDS Walk NAZ hits the streets of Prescott, the 27th annual AIDS Walk Tucson, and related events, are scheduled for the Old Pueblo.
As one of the oldest walks in Tucson, this event will take place Oct. 11 and will again raise funds for the SAAF. According to event organizers,100 percent of the proceeds raised from the walk will support services that help in the prevention, education and services for HIV/AIDS in the community.
This year is especially memorable to event organizers because it marks the 30th year anniversary of SAAF. And, along with this milestone, comes along a new mission for the organization: “to cultivate a healthy and stigma free society through transformative action.”
Throughout the past 30 years, SAAF’s programs have helped reach thousands and the proceeds raised this year will allow the organization to gain momentum for the 1,300 plus clients regularly dependent upon their services.
According to Monique Vallery, SAAF’s associate director of development, with the support of the community, AIDS Walk Tucson hopes to have more than 2,000 registered walkers and raise $170,000 this year.
AIDS Walk Tucson also invites walkers to register their pets for PAWS for the Cause portion of the fundraiser for $10. Vallery said she recognizes that pets are extension of family and organizers are excited for the furry friends to participate. Every registered pet will receive an AIDS Walk “neckerchief.”
And, while the walk will take place on a Sunday, the entire weekend is dedicated to awareness and prevention and those whose lives have impacted by the disease.
After crossing the finish line, walkers are invited to the Quilts Opening Ceremony. For the past 14 years, this ceremony has made panels from the Tucson AIDS Quilt available for viewing. And, in partnership with the National Names Project Foundation, event coordinators will read the names of each person listed on the quilt in remembrance of their lives.
“It is one of the most powerful events that happens all weekend,” Vallery said, “[It’s] not only for family members who [knew] the individual, but supporters who may not know anyone who has AIDS – they can come show support.”
Tucson Meet Yourself, a three-day folklife festival, will be held the same weekend and is expecting 100,000 attendees to descend on downtown Tucson from Oct. 9-11.
“The Tucson Meet Yourself Festival gives us the opportunity to reach even more people,” Vallery said. “There will condom distribution, outreach education and free on-site testing at the festival.”
AIDS Walk & 5k Run Phoenix
AIDS Walk NAZ and AIDSWALK Tucson are two-thirds of a powerful collaborative working in unison to deliver a message of awareness throughout the state.
AIDS Walk & 5K Run Phoenix is slated for Oct. 25 (look for more details in the next issue of Echo).
As the partnership for AIDS Walk AZ grows stronger each year, event organizers in the northern and southern parts of the state agree that, while the goals are set high, seeing the outcome of their efforts is exciting, inspiring and rewarding.
AIDS Walk Northern Arizona
10 a.m. Sept. 26
Ken Lindley Park in Prescott.
The 27th annual AIDS Walk Tucson
8 a.m. Oct. 11
Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Jacome Plaza
Quilts Opening Ceremony
10 a.m. Oct. 11
AIDS Walk & 5K Run Phoenix
9 a.m. Oct. 25