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Thousands of people joined the 18th Annual AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run on Sunday, hoping to raise $1 million for nine beneficiaries that work with people affected by HIV.

Some 9,000 people walked — dozens even ran — the route that began on 10th Street and stretched through Midtown with the theme “Every Life Deserves Hope.”

The annual walk benefits AID Atlanta, which stages the event, and eight other organizations including AIDGwinnett, AIDS Alliance for Faith and Health, Aniz, Home But Not Alone, Jerusalem House, Positive Impact, Project Open Hand and SisterLove. Read more about the beneficiaries.

The AIDS Walk is the largest AIDS-related fundraising event in the Southeast. It raised $1.038 million in 2007.

The event draws a crowd that reaches across gender and ethnic lines and includes gay, straight and transgender participants.

View the Project Q Atlanta photo album from the event.

A sampling of what some participants had to say about why they took part in AIDS Walk Atlanta:

imageJim Marks: I used to work for AID Atlanta for five years and was involved with the walk every year and now with the [AIDS Memorial] Quilt for the past seven years. We have this big display here on Grady’s lawn. So I’m here as employee and supporter obviously because of the quilt.

Michael Fagan: I’m volunteering for the check-in for Macy’s. I’ve been involved since 1995 with the walk. We started doing the Macy’s check in for them and have done it every year.

imageKristina Williams and Whitney Knight:
Williams: We’re members of Sisters Keeping It Real Through Service, an organization at Spelman. So we are volunteered this morning with them. It’s my second year. We’re a community service organization and it is one of our events.

Knight: It’s my second year. It’s definitely good to come out and support the walk.

image Jarrett Hill: AIDS Walk is an excellent opportunity for people to come together to support an outstanding cause and AID Atlanta and our eight other benefiting organizations. It’s to support people living in and around our area that are positive with varying support services. This year is very important because the economy is bad right now and it’s tough to raise money when they don’t have it. But even in this time people that use our services need it even more than they normally would because the economy is hard for them, too.

imageRudra Jason Brumbelow: I’m with the Atlanta Meth Task Force and we just joined forces this year with AID Atlanta. We’re out doing education and prevention about crystal meth and supporting the AIDS Walk.

imageDarie Wolfson: What the AIDS Walk does is super important in terms of raising money to provide resource, whether it is for testing to any sort of other health services that people need. I have several people in my life who have been touched by the services that all of these organizations provide, so here I am.

imageMichael Mullen: I’ve have three fiends of mine that are HIV positive and one of them is not doing well these days. He can’t make the walks anymore so I try to come out here and make the walks in his place.

imageRick Triana: I’ve been involved with the ONE, which is Bono’s organization and I came out to support the volunteer work.

imageKeisha Smith: I did it last year and had a lot of fun. Our church — Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church — has an AIDS ministry called Simon’s Call and they do it every year. They really encourage the congregation to join, even if you’re not involved with the ministry.