Tampa Bay AIDS Walk 2013

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While the 10th annual AIDS Walk Tampa Bay on Sept. 7 was all about celebrating successes in the battle against HIV while raising money for positive clients served by the AIDS Association of Pinellas, it was about honor for Tampa resident Gordon Kendrick.

Kendrick, 62, remembers losing friends daily in the 1980s as the AIDS epidemic swept across the country. While advances in medical care have prevented countless other deaths, the disease is still close to Kendrick’s heart, and he’ll walk for as long as he’s able, he said.

“So many people forget that HIV and AIDS attacked our community with a vengeance,” Kendrick said. “Today’s youth doesn’t always understand what this battle is about and why we hold walks like these. We will win this fight. We have to.”

And thanks to more than 900 participants this year—the largest number ever—$173,000 was raised to assist ASAP’s ongoing mission to provide HIV services to more than 1,100 clients.

“The money helps fund our range of programs,” explained Jay Aller, who organized the walk. “It provides for medical case management, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling and allows us to provide free HIV testing and provides for our mobile unit to travel around the community.”

While the number of participants was up this week, the monetary goal for 2013 fell a little short, Aller said. But he’s happy with the community’s efforts and is thankful for the increased awareness and participation.

“Our corporate sponsorships were down  this year,” Aller said. “We lost Nielsen Media and CVS this year. And while Walgreens encouraged employees to create a team, there was no contribution from the corporate office.”

Aller said he’s not sure why getting corporate sponsorships was harder this year, but when he realized it was going to be a tough year, he scaled back the walk by nixing some special entertainment and a planned, larger stage.

“This is year 10 for the AIDS Walk but we also have to keep an eye on our mission, which is to service our clients,” Aller said. “I had bigger plans, but it’s more important to save that money for our services rather than the budget for the event.”

Teams were out in full force on the sunny Saturday morning at Vinoy Park, and GTE Financial’s team raised the most money with an impressive $20,000. Team member Joseph Brancucci was the individual who raised the most with $11,000.

Balance Tampa Bay brought in a commendable $6,500 and Tampa resident Mike Hammonds was the second-highest individual fundraiser with $3,300.

“Participation was right on the mark,” Aller said. “We increased advertising in mainstream media and I believe that helped a lot. I was very happy with the turnout.”

More than 90 volunteers helped set up and tear down equipment for the walk and a seven-member committee helped organize it all, Aller pointed out. There is still time to donate to AIDS Walk Tampa Bay through AIDSWalkTampaBay.org.

“This cause continues to be important, and it’s organizations like ASAP that are going to help us make HIV a things of the past,” Kendrick said.

Up next for ASAP is the annual Santa Speedo Run, which is scheduled for Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, at Ybor City’s Centennial Park. A fundraising page for that event will be set up soon and details are available at the Santa Speedo Run Tampa Bay Facebook page.

From our media partner WatermarkSteve Blanchard

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