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October 10, 2008

New route pleases AIDS walkers

Cleveland--A new route showing off more of the University Circle area highlighted the 18th annual John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk on September 4.

In past years, the walk circled Wade Oval and headed through the University Circle area. This year it detoured west on Chester Ave., looping through the Cleveland Clinic and back to University Hospitals before returning to Wade Oval.

The walk, which benefits ten organizations in northeast Ohio, was led by Suzanne Africa Engo, the founder of the New York AIDS Film Festival. Engo is running from New York City to Chicago to raise awareness on AIDS.

While no estimate of money raised was available by press time, AIDS Walk coordinator Jill Rembrandt said 1,500 had registered.

Of those, 611 were counted passing the corner of East 105th St. and Chester Ave. on the first leg of the walk.

Donations are still being mailed, delivered to the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and entered on the website,

Rembrandt believes that, when the final tally comes, it will show a slight decrease from last year’s figures because of the difficult economy.

“I wouldn’t say it’s that much,” she noted of the decline.

The new route, however, was a winner, bringing compliments from many of the participants.

“It was great, people had a really good time,” she said. “I think people enjoyed seeing more of University Circle than just Wade Oval.

“The thing I would say about the walk this year is it had a lot of spirit and a lot of energy,” Rembrandt continued. “I was really happy to see a lot of younger people. The campuses were really involved in volunteering.”

Rembrandt said that it is important to see a continued commitment from the older, more established contingent while they continue to pass the torch to younger people “who are starting to care a lot about this issue. I think we’re getting back to a place where people realize it’s not going away any time soon.”

She also looks at the AIDS Walk as community outreach as much as a fundraising event, and that was made strikingly clear with a get-out-the-vote rally after the walk was completed.

While nobody came to represent the McCain campaign, organizers for Barack Obama spoke and also had a booth there.

Next year’s AIDS Walk will likely be even larger than this one, said Rembrandt.

“There will be a buzz,” she noted.



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