By Megan Wadding, Oct. 9, 2014.
For the first time in the history of AIDS Walk, fundraisers, supporters, walkers and even pets will hit the streets of three Arizona cities on consecutive October weekends.
While the trio of events kicks off in Tucson Oct. 12, this year’s new addition — the northern Arizona walk — will take place in Prescott Oct. 19. Additionally, the Phoenix walk and 5k will take place Oct. 26. (Read more in our next issue.)
Together, AIDS Walks in Phoenix, Tucson and Northern Arizona are jointly being billed as AIDS Walk Arizona.
“I think the fact that we are working towards a more cohesive, statewide presence is a big deal. I see newcomers every year who are overwhelmed by the feeling of community and camaraderie at the event,” said Ethan Smith Cox, Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) director of development. “I think people have a real connection with the event. There are people across the state with a stake in this fight and we should all have the opportunity to be a part of events like this in our own communities.”
Following the walk, participants are invited to stay for the Quilts Opening Ceremony where quilt panels, each panel honoring those whose life has been lost to HIV/AIDS, from the Tucson AIDS Quilt will be on display.
“We bring in panels from the National AIDS Memorial (NAMES) Project every year. There will be six of these panels along with 24 local panels,” Cox said.
Running in conjunction with Tucson AIDS Walk again this year is the Tucson Meet Yourself (TMY) festival, which according to the TMY website, is an annual celebration of the living traditional arts of Southern Arizona’s and Northern Mexico’s diverse ethnic and folk communities. The three-day event features hundreds of artisans, home cooks, dancers, musicians and special exhibits.
“For the past three years, we have collaborated with [TMY], a very well-established local art and culture festival that attracts over 100,000 people each year. We are excited to continue this collaboration,” said Cox. “We piggy-back off each other and [open up] each other’s events to a whole new segment of the community. It’s an amazing win-win for all of us.”
Cox advises visitors to book accommodations in advance because the combination of events draws countless out-of-towners to the Old Pueblo.
“All three Arizona AIDS Walks [will now] have a similar look that will become well-identified with each event in the coming years,” Cox said. “I think it is always helpful to share ideas and collaborate on as large a level as possible and this has been a wonderful partnership with Aunt Rita’s in Phoenix and Northland Cares in Prescott.”
According to Cox, AIDS Walk raised just over $143,000 last year, and the goal this year is to raise at least $180,000. The funds raised in Tucson benefit the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF).
SAAF provides services like medications assistance, food programs, case management, housing, prevention programs and HIV testing for the community.
According to Tricia Goffena-Beyer, Executive Director of Northland Care, the nonprofit agency hosting the event in partnership with Aunt Rita’s Foundation, the conversation around expanding the AIDS Walk to northern Arizona, with the intention of bringing more attention and support to the issues of HIV/AIDS started last year.
“For Northern Arizona, there really is not a history of AIDS Walks. There have been walks that have taken place on World AIDS Days in the past, but this is our first time organizing the AIDS Walk Northern Arizona, and the first time the AIDS Walk is being advertised as a state-wide project,” Goffena-Beyer said.
Although this first-ever walk represents the northern half of the state, it encompasses largely rural areas and, Goffena-Beyer, is expected to draw a much smaller turnout than Phoenix and Tucson.
“We are hoping to get 100 [attendees]. This is our first time and we’re still pretty green, but we’re learning fast and looking forward to the next year,” said Goffena-Beyer. “I don’t see the Northern Arizona AIDS Walk ever become as large as other cities, but it’s something to aim for. A little friendly competition is a good thing, right? Watch out Tucson and Phoenix!”
Goffena-Beyer said that some walkers are expected to attend from out-of-town and invited everyone to come enjoy the cool, fall weather that the Prescott area sees in October.
“Prescott is a pretty popular tourist destination with lots of fun things to do and see, so [walkers] should definitely come up early and take advantage of the cool weather,” she said.
AIDS Walk Northern Arizona will be held at the Brownlow Trail at Pioneer Park on the northern end of Prescott.
“[There] is a dirt trail that will take you through some pretty fields and has some lovely views of the surrounding mountains,” Goffena-Beyer said. “The start and finish line are from the parking area where vendors will be set up.”
There will be snacks and water available for both the walkers and their dogs. A small local AIDS remembrance quilt will be on display.
According to Goffena-Beyer, the goal is to raise at least $7,000 and to educate people on HIV/AIDS and the importance of testing.
AIDS Walk Tucson
7 a.m Oct. 12
Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Jacome Plaza, 101 N. Stone Ave., Tucson
Northern Arizona AIDS Walk
9 a.m. Oct. 19
Pioneer Park, 1300 Commerce Drive, Prescott
(AIDS Walk Tucson photo © Scott Griessel)