This year, AIDS Walk New York celebrates its 25th anniversary of being at the forefront of the fight to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS. On May 16th, over 45,000 participants will walk the 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles, through Central Park, Harlem, and the Upper West Side, in what has become the largest AIDS fundraising event in the world.
Since 1986, AIDS Walk New York has raised over $105 million for HIV programs and services in the tri-state area. All donations go to support Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) and 50 other local AIDS service organizations. GMHC is the world's first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. While these groups are helping make a difference in the lives of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, the fight is not over. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the overall rate of infection continues to rise, so the walk remains as important as ever.
To participate in the event, sign up on the AIDS Walk New York website. You can register to walk as an individual or as a team and there is no fee or fundraising requirement to join (though everyone is encouraged to fundraise). There are incentive prizes for raising a certain amount of money, and those who pledge to raise $1000 are Star Walkers and receive a pass to the Star Walker Breakfast on the day of the event.
On May 16th, sign in will open at 8:30 am in Central Park, there will be a warm up and opening ceremony, and then the 2010 AIDS Walk New York officially begins at 10:00 am. The walk takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete and both begins and ends in Central Park around the 72nd Street transverse. There are often a few celebrities welcoming participants at the start of the race and a big concert greets walkers as they cross the finish line (along with some free swag from sponsors, such as health food companies).
If you want to be involved, but walking isn't your cup of tea, consider becoming a volunteer. The event needs over 2,100 volunteers on the day of, for tasks such as greeting, working the sign-in stations, helping to tally donations, and cheering walkers along the way.
If you are interested in donating to AIDS Walk New York, click here. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible and the online donation form is secure. You may also see a lot of red ribbons right now at your local Duane Reade, the leading sponsor of this year's walk. Consider a $1 donation the next time you take a trip to the drugstore and become a part of Duane Reade's "Show of Heart" campaign.
No matter your level of involvement, you are encouraged to come out on May 16th and cheer for those walking. Rain or shine, we'll be out there, and the atmosphere of hope, enthusiasm, and collaboration among so many thousands of people is well worth witnessing. It is amazing to be able to look around and see what we can achieve together. Check out the AIDS Walk New York route map to catch the walkers in action.