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June 5, 2009

 

Springtime AIDS Walk gives a sunny finale to the event

Cleveland--The final Dr. John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk gave a gorgeous, sunny send-off to the area’s longest-lasting fundraiser for AIDS service organizations.

Following the lead of other organizations around the nation, the 19th annual event on May 30 was the last. The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland announced a few months ago that it would discontinue the walks.

“We moved the walk to May because that’s actually when we have always wanted to do it,” said AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland walk coordinator Jill Rembrandt in February. “The Plain Dealer, who used to be the presenting sponsor of the walk, wanted it in the fall, so as not to compete with another major event they sponsored, so we chose to do it in October in the past.”

“We decided that it was time to end it before it gradually ended itself by having less and less participants as time went on,” she continued. “We are hoping that in the coming year we will be able to reinvent the fundraiser as more of a celebration of life . . . live music, food, and a great way to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.”

The walk did at least as well as expected, especially considering that it was the second one in a single fiscal year.

A Gay People’s Chronicle reporter counted 443 people walking, and Rembrandt noted that a final tally for money raised won’t be available for weeks.

“Money-wise, obviously we don’t have totals,” she said. “Money still comes in for the next month or so.”

“I think we met our goals,” she posited.

The October 2008 walk brought in 611 participants, so the attendance was down, but the attitude of those involved was almost ecstatic.

“I was really happy with the number of young people who were there this year, from high school through college,” Rembrandt said, noting that they were energetic and she was humbled by “how involved they wanted to be and how passionate they felt about the cause.”

In addition to the North Coast Men’s Chorus  and people speaking about living with HIV, DJ Freeze played music, as did the Blazing River Freedom Band.

At one point, a large crowd of primarily young walkers did the Cleveland Slide, and the energy level was through the roof.

That is the sort of thing Rembrandt would like to see in the Celebration of Life that is intended to take the AIDS Walk’s place.

“We’re still in the planning stages,” she noted. “I’m hoping that is something that is going to be more done by committee, and have various people from the community decide what is necessary to really be a celebration of life.”

She envisions a group comprised of community members, representatives from the various agencies that would benefit from the event and other giving a “consensus of what people feel is going to be a real celebration of life instead of it just being handed down by the AIDS Taskforce.”

“We’re thinking a lot of music, helping people cope and know what it’s like to live with HIV, more a celebration than a vigil,” she concluded.

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