The 20th Annual AIDS Walk Charlotte will take place on May 7, with participants hitting the streets from the Gateway Village Promenade, 800 W. Trade St. at 10 a.m.
A signature fundraising event for the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN), it brings brave individuals together to walk the two-mile trek through the heart of Uptown Charlotte. This morning jaunt brings men, women and children together (and maybe a pooch or two) to champion the AIDS cause while bringing attention to those who have been touched by HIV and AIDS. Monies raised stay in the Charlotte, N.C. area.
Always a family- and pet-friendly affair, participants gather pledges beforehand and attempt to meet their goals. Along the way, individuals and teams rally together to bring spirit and energy to the day.
At 8 a.m., registration and check-in opens and continues until the morning program and awards kick off at 9:30 a.m., followed by the walk which takes about 30 minutes to complete on average. A closing ceremony is held at 11 a.m. where organizers share totals with attendees. Awards and recognition will be given out for Top Community Fundraising Team, Top Corporate Fundraising Team, Top Congregational Fundraising Team, Jordan Mitzel Award (Top Individual Fundraiser) and Glam Squad Award (Best Team Spirit).
“The first AIDS walk was conceived and organized by four RAIN board members in 1997. We raised $30,000 in the pouring rain. Through the years our walk has become a real touchstone for people desiring a way to express their care. It has a real extended family feeling to it. It s very moving to see so many people come out to remember loved ones and stand in solidarity with people living with HIV. It s also a lot of fun DJ Lil Betty keeps us moving and dancing,” said RAIN s Executive Director Debbie Warren.
Being part of the day s activities is simple. The event s website has signup pages where one can walk solo or form or join a team. Pledge totals to date are also available. The campaign goal is $160,000. A number of companies are providing matching funds for those who wish to participate. At press time, ADP, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Gap, Inc., General Electric, IBM Corporation and Starbucks Corporation are on board.
RAIN has served the Charlotte metropolitan area since 1992 and provides services to HIV+ youth, adults and seniors. The organization ensures access to quality, personalized care in a nurturing environment for individuals and their families who are living with HIV and associated chronic conditions so they may live healthier fulfilled lives. Through education and advocacy, RAIN promotes disease prevention, understanding and dignity for those affected by HIV and for those who are at risk. Services include bilingual community education and support, specialized programs for youth, customized HIV education curriculum for faith communities and case management linking clients with healthcare, medications, mental health services, housing and other resources.
Currently, there are some 50,000 new HIV infections reported every year in the U.S. with the South having the greatest number of people living with HIV and the highest rate of new infections. On average, seven new cases of HIV are reported each week in Mecklenburg County, which nets the highest number of HIV cases in the state.
Warren shared, “A few weeks ago, the CDC released lifetime risk estimates. If current HIV diagnosis rates persist, about 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men (MSM), 1 in 4 Latino MSM and 1 in 11 Caucasian MSM in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime. With all the incredible biomedical interventions we have now, these are startling statistics and a real call to action. It s especially important to me, and to all of us at RAIN, to help everyone at risk, access PrEP. We don’t have to see these statistics realized.”
There is no fee to register to participate in the walk. For those who raise a minimum of $20, an official event T-shirt will be available to pick up on the day of the walk. Same-day registration is also available. The community is invited to form teams, be they through companies, organizations, congregations or schools. Participants are encouraged to bring sunscreen, water and a raincoat or extra layer of clothing in case of inclement weather. Comfortable shoes are also recommended. Wheelchairs, strollers and dogs on leashes are permitted. The event website has a host of support materials for participants, including posters, statistics, forms, kits and social media images to name a few.
AIDS Walk Charlotte is presented by Bar at 316, Kiss 95.1 FM, Power 98 WPEG FM, WCCB-TV and Wells Fargo. Platinum sponsors are MedExpress Pharmacy, Yelp, Bighouse Marketing, Bank of America, Ballantyne Family Medicine and RxClinic Pharmacy. Gold Sponsors are Sea of Love, LLC, Scott Design, Synchrony Financial, CVS Speciality, All the Right Grooves, Live Events Media Group and Novant Health.