Walkers raise money for AIDS programs

by Margaret Bell

Despite walking for a serious cause, the mood at Sunday’s AIDS Walk was high-spirited.
More than 15,000 cheering, singing, clapping and hugging participants walked the six-and-a-half mile route along both banks of the Mississippi River for the 11th annual event, which raises money for AIDS education, prevention and services.
The walk started at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, went north on West River Parkway, crossed the river at the Lake Street Bridge and went south on East River Parkway to end back in the park.
“It is an easy way to raise money for a good cause,” said College of Liberal Arts sophomore Julie Kesti, who participated in her second AIDS Walk.
Sunday’s event, which was sponsored by the Minnesota AIDS Project, raised more than $600,000 to benefit 19 Minnesota groups that either specialize in AIDS and HIV education or care for AIDS patients. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, a terminal disease that damages the immune system and leaves the body susceptible to illnesses that don’t affect those with healthy immune systems.
While AIDS-related deaths are down from previous years because people are living longer with the disease, more people are becoming infected with HIV than ever before. That’s why the visibility afforded by the AIDS Walk is so important, said project communications director Russ King.
Some of the money raised goes toward research to find a cure for the disease.
“I am walking in memory of my brother, Bruce,” said Minneapolis resident Ann Godfrey, whose brother died in 1985 from an AIDS-related illness. “He was hoping he’d live long enough for a cure.”
The total revenue raised this year is above last year’s total, said King, who added that some 200 pets also raised money by walking with their owners.
“Sometimes it’s easier to ask people to sponsor pets than themselves,” King said.
More than 9,000 people pre-registered, while an additional 4,000 to 5,000 people brought money to register on Sunday. Project case manager Diane Knust said the high number of walk-on registrants is normal.
However, some people were surprised by the high number of participants — even those involved in organizing the event.
“I didn’t think it was this big,” said first-year project volunteer Mike Moore. “I’m surprised. It’s a good day to be out and about.”