Cleveland--Despite a slight drop in the money raised, the 15th annual Dr. John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk on October 1 is being hailed a success by its organizers.
�We knew going into this that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is affecting fundraising everywhere,� said Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.
Like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, relief efforts for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have drawn large amounts in donations, often to the detriment of other charities. Also, this year�s AIDS walk was on the first Saturday of October, instead of a Sunday in September, and was moved to University Circle.
During speeches before the step-off of the walk, Pike explained the move to the east side of the city from the walk�s previous location at Edgewater Park on the west side.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources proposed a $5 parking fee at all state parks, including Edgewater.
�We can�t ask all these people to raise funds to fight AIDS� and then tell them to pay another $5 to park, Pike noted.
By the time the parking fee idea was dropped, plans had already been made to have the AIDS Walk in University Circle.
Pike also explained that, regardless of which weekend day the event was held, it would conflict with the worship of some people of faith, Sunday being the Christian Sabbath and Saturday being a day of worship for Jews and Muslims.
In the end, he floated the idea of alternating from year to year between Saturday and Sunday, east and west, drawing cheers from the crowd.
While fundraising may have been down because of Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones warned the crowd that legislators wanted to siphon funds from other social services to pay for disaster relief.
�They are talking about reducing entitlement programs to pay for Katrina,� she told the walkers assembled at Kulas Community Stage, urging them to contact their representatives and senators to oppose the plan.
�Well, my friends, in a few minutes we�re going to tie up our shoes and go for a walk,� said Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, who shared the microphone with City Council President Frank Jackson, her opponent in the November election.
This year�s march was held in honor of Ana Rodriguez, who died last December at the age of 16.
Her sister Marilyn, who works at the AIDS Taskforce, set a goal for herself of $3,000 raised in her sister�s memory. When she realized that she might fall short of that total, she called people who had already donated to her team and asked them to give more, eventually bringing in a total of $3,003.
�I cannot imagine my life without this illness in it,� Rodriguez said, having lost both her parents to AIDS as well. �If you don�t have HIV, you have a choice not to acquire it.�
Gay People�s Chronicle publisher Martha Pontoni recalled the early days of the disease in Cleveland, when few doctors would treat patients with HIV.
Pontoni said the walk�s namesake Dr. John Carey, who died in a 1995 accident, was an exception. So was Dr. Leonard Calabrese.
She recounted being at a pharmacy late at night, trying to get a prescription filled for her roommate Larry Kolke, who was dying and in extreme pain.
The pharmacist was not being helpful to her, and Pontoni was getting upset. As the pharmacist was nearing the point of calling the police to remove her, she called Calabrese, who spoke to the pharmacist and got her the medication so that Kolke could have a decent night�s sleep.
�The pharmacist didn�t know what it was like to be dying of AIDS and in pain,� Pontoni explained.
Despite the shadow of Katrina and the change in day and location, Pike said that online donations were up, as well as corporate sponsorships. He gave a preliminary estimate of $180,000 raised.
A portion of that will be donated to the Montrose Clinic in Houston, which is providing support services for people with HIV who were displaced from Mississippi and Louisiana by the hurricanes.
�It was a beautiful day, and once again people came out to support northeast Ohio�s largest fundraiser for HIV and AIDS,� Pike said. �We had some churches that really kicked butt.�
He pointed to the fundraising efforts of the Starbucks, Bethany Church and Zone family teams especially.
Pike also said that they saved money by using Justgiving.com instead of going through a larger fundraising organization like Kintera, which the Cleveland AIDS Walk used in previous years.
�I would rather raise $180,000 with 25 percent expenses than a million dollars with 90 percent expenses,� he noted.
Additional online donations can still be made through various Just Giving pages, including the Gay People�s Chronicle�s page at http://www.justgiving.com/pfp/GPC
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