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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tucson takes steps for AIDS relief

    Runners begin the 5k walk portion of the 20th annual AIDS Walk held on the UAmall Sunday. Coordinators believed over 5500 people participated in the eventand all proceeds will go to the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.
    Runners begin the 5k walk portion of the 20th annual AIDS Walk held on the UAmall Sunday. Coordinators believed over 5500 people participated in the eventand all proceeds will go to the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

    Hundreds of people filled the west end of the UA mall Sunday morning to participate in the 20th annual Tucson AIDSWALK.

    The morning kicked off with a 10-kilometer wheelchair race, but participants also had the opportunity to visit different booths which had free food, information, giveaways and massages. Wilbur and Wilma made an appearance along with UA cheerleaders to welcome runners past the finish line.

    Also in attendance were Ronald McDonald, Batman, the Tucson Electric Power Cat, clowns and a Geico gecko wearing an AIDS walk t-shirt.

    After the aerobics session, the walkers gathered in front of the Student Union Memorial Center to begin the five-kilometer journey. Teams of walkers included local businesses, UA clubs and organizations, and groups of family and friends.

    Although the walk was physically challenging, UA students were smiling nonetheless.

    Pre-engineering freshman Ramon Munoz was one of the first walkers to finish. He said it felt great to be part of AIDSWALK and he and his friends “”put on a show”” speed walking.

    Munoz said he participated because treatment is so expensive for those with AIDS. In addition to walking, he and his friends had penny wars in their dorm to raise more money for the cause, he said.

    Also finishing the walk was political science junior Alla Goldman. She said she participated as part of her “”desire to raise money for the Tucson community,”” explaining that she supports the mission of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. Goldman said it’s a cause she “”really, really believes in,”” and though it doesn’t personally affect her, “”it definitely could on any given day.””

    Rather than running or walking to support the event, many UA students volunteered. Among the volunteers were film production sophomore James Kilbridge and physiology freshman Casey Piermarini.

    Though they both said they lost out on sleep, having gone to the UA football game Saturday night and gotten up early to volunteer, Kilbridge and Piermarini agreed AIDSWALK was a good cause.

    “”I encourage the event 100 percent,”” he said. “”AIDS is something I really feel strongly about – it scares me.””

    Piermarini added that “”volunteering makes you live longer,”” saying that it’s been proven true by several health reports. She and Kilbridge also talked about the hope of having a vaccine by 2020.

    Michele Bart, director of development at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation said the easiest way to prevent AIDS is through education.

    According to Bart, the money raised by AIDSWALK benefits programs and services of SAAF. Among these are seven programs targeted at high-risk groups to teach them about the basics of HIV, said Bart.

    “”This really shows what a really generous community we have,”” she said. She added the event itself brings together a diverse group of people – “”so many people who have been affected in so many ways.””

    SAAF hopes to raise $234,000 through AIDSWALK. As of 8 a.m. Sunday, AIDSWALK had raised $170,000. The final amount will be totaled in the next few days.

    To get involved, Bart recommends that students go to SAAF or call. More information is available at www.saaf.org.

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