If It’s Fall, It’s Time for the AIDS Walk
In the autumn months, the Calendar of Events in your local newspaper is full of charity walks. They all raise money for worthwhile causes, typically for one national organization or another. The Delaware AIDS Walk, however, is different. It is one event that raises money for ten different HIV/AIDS programs throughout Delaware.
Now in its 24th year, the AIDS Walk was originally a fundraiser just for AIDS Delaware, Delaware’s largest AIDS Service Organization. It was held once a year, and it was always held in Wilmington. Seven years ago, AIDS Delaware began working with the Delaware HIV Consortium to expand the Walk, opening it up to benefit other organizations and to offer AIDS Walks in all three of Delaware’s counties. This year’s AIDS Walk will take place in Wilmington on Sunday, September 26th; AIDS Walks in Dover and Rehoboth Beach will be held the following Sunday on October 3rd. Sign-in the day of the walk is at 1 p.m.; the AIDS Walk in Rehoboth Beach steps off at 2 p.m.
“AIDS Walk Delaware is special because of the collaborative effort behind it,” explains John Klein, Executive Director of AIDS Delaware. “By pooling resources, the partner organizations are able to produce a great fund- and awareness-raising event at a relatively low cost.” Staff members from AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium make up most of the Planning Committee for the AIDS Walks each year. In turn they are helped by volunteers in local communities. For the past five years, Sharyn Warwick has been the local coordinator of the AIDS Walk in Rehoboth Beach. “I worked at the Sussex County AIDS Council for several years, and I have seen how well HIV/AIDS service providers work together to help people living with HIV disease,” says Sharyn. “There is such a feeling of teamwork”.
Teams are critically important for the success of the AIDS Walk as a fundraiser. All ten HIV/AIDS service providers have formed Walk Teams of their own. HIV/AIDS service providers in Sussex County with AIDS Walk teams include CAMP Rehoboth, Catholic Charities, the Christiana Care HIV Wellness Clinic in Georgetown, and Kent Sussex Counseling Services. All of the money raised by Walk Teams goes towards HIV/AIDS services, with nearly half of the money going directly back to support the local programs that raised the money. The remaining portion goes to the lead organizations AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium, which use their dollars to support statewide HIV/AIDS services.
CAMPsafe Director Sal Seeley captains the AIDS Walk Team for CAMP Rehoboth. “Team G.O.O.F.Y. has been part of the AIDS Walk for the past several years,” explains Sal. “Since HIV prevention/education is part of the CAMPsafe program, we felt we have the responsibility to our community to get out there with other agencies and support this event. So much of the gay/bi male population is affected by HIV/AIDS. The AIDS Walk is an opportunity to get information in all three counties out to people who might think AIDS is not a big deal, that it’s over and it’s something that could never happen to them.”
The Rehoboth AIDS Walk begins and ends at Grove Park in downtown Rehoboth Beach. Part of the 5K route includes a scenic stroll on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. The most memorable part of the walk, however, is the dropping of flowers at the base of an AIDS ribbon sculpture along the way. “We walk to remember loved ones who lost their lives to this disease,” says Sharyn. “Just as importantly, we walk to raise money to stop the spread of the disease and to care for people who are living with it.” The Delaware AIDS Walk website (aidswalkdelaware. org) is set up to accept online donations. The website features the most current security features to ensure that online transactions remain safe. It is easy to sponsor a particular team or individual walker, by using the search engine built into the website itself.
The website also provides an easy way for walkers to register themselves for this year’s events. “It’s not too late to sign up!” exclaims John Klein. “Funding for HIV/AIDS services is not keeping up with the demand for services. Every additional dollar…raised by each additional walker…makes a huge difference. We remain committed to working together to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and to prevent new infections.”
To be part of the effort, log onto www.aidswalkdelaware.org, or call Sussex AIDS Walk Coordinator Sharyn Warwick at 302-684-1328 today.