One of my favorite events is the annual Florida AIDS Walk, to be held this year on Sunday, May 20. The Walk combines one of my favorite activities – walking – with the opportunity to raise money for a worthy cause. Like Pride events, the Florida AIDS Walk unites an often fractious community behind a common cause. Thirty years after it was first detected, HIV/AIDS continues to have a deadly impact on men who have sex with other men, especially in South Florida. If nothing else, the Florida AIDS Walk should remind us that AIDS still plays a very big role in the lives (and deaths) of our community.
For the past several years, I was team captain for Congregation Etz Chaim in Wilton Manors. This year I am a walker for Team Temple Beth El in Hollywood. Organized as in previous years by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, owners of the “Out of the Closets” thrift stores and adjacent pharmacies, this year’s Florida AIDS Walk will be quite different. First, the Walk will start and finish on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Second, perhaps in consideration of those of us who aren’t getting any younger, the Walk was reduced from 10km to 5. Third, this year’s Walk will be followed by a music festival on the beach, featuring some well-known (but as yet unannounced) musical talent who will play for your dancing pleasure.
The money raised by the Florida AIDS Walk supports the services provided by AHF and other Florida AIDS organizations. They include Broward House, The Center for Positive Connections, Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center, Latinos Salud, Minority Development & Empowerment, Inc., The Pride Center at Equality Park, South Beach AIDS Project, and SunServe.
“Broward House has been a proud participant of the Florida AIDS Walk since its inception,” says Terry DeCarlo, Broward House director of public relations, marketing and fundraising. “It is just in the past three years that we have been a benefitting agency. The funds that we receive from the Florida AIDS Walk go to help us in keeping our promise to never say no and to never turn anyone away who needs our help.”
In addition to being a beneficiary of the AIDS Walk, Broward House sponsors one of the leading teams at the Walk. As of April 12 Team Broward House has raised $10,626, more than any other team; and both team captain DeCarlo and walker Lester Turchin are among the top ten participants.
What is the secret to their success? “We try to keep the word out there, letting people know that 100 percent of the money donated to Team Broward House comes directly back to us,” DeCarlo says. Though many of the teams are sponsored by LGBT organizations, many are also sponsored by “mainstream” groups and businesses, including (among the top ten) MAC Cosmetics and Temple Beth El.
“I believe that we have the capacity to better our life [sic] and our community by becoming more engaged and involved to what I like to call ‘home improvement,’” says Bryan D. Freehling, captain of the Temple Beth El team. “Often we speak of the welfare of ourselves, but when we do this, we are only speaking about the individual (me). However, in reality, our community is our true home so we should be concerned with the welfare of all of our family members.”
Visit www.floridaaidswalk.org for more information about the AIDS Walk or its teams.