Thousands walked Fort Lauderdale Beach Sunday to raise money for HIV/AIDS services.
“It was a broad base audience,” said Imara Canady, Regional Director, Communications and Community Engagement for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Southern Bureau. “It was culturally and racially diverse and this year we had more millennials.”
Anthony Cedeno was one of those millennials. Cedeno, a Parkland resident, raised $640 for the Happy Hiney’s/World AIDS Museum team.
“I walked and raised money to get involved in a cause that still needs support,” said Cedeno, a communications associate at Our Fund. “Even if a vaccine is not developed soon, these funds are still providing resources for people living with HIV and AIDS and those taking measures to prevent it. It feels good to be a part of that.”
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Kevin Clevenger, team captain for the Poverello Hunger Fighters, was the top overall fundraiser. Clevenger raised $43,000.
“I started in November and did 12 fundraisers to reach my goal,” said Clevenger, a Fort Lauderdale resident.
The Poverello Center provides food to people living with critical and chronic illnesses. As a team, Poverello raised nearly $75,000.
“I walk because I believe no one should go hungry, especially those who need to take their life saving medicine with food to properly absorb,” Clevenger said. “I also walk to bring awareness to this disease that has taken so many lives.”
Fort Lauderdale Beach hosted the walk and music festival now in its 12th year. Participants marched a three mile course late morning on Sunday amid sunny and breezy conditions.
For Will Portalatin, the route was familiar. Portlatin, the president of the board of directors for Latinos Salud, said this was his 10th walk.
“For me it is always about remembering, supporting and ending stigma,” Portalatin said.
Latinos Salud offers multiple programs designed to provide individuals with skills to prevent HIV infection or to live healthier with HIV. The organization, founded in 2008, was created to provide a safe space to Latino gay guys and their partners.
“In my generation we have started to finally feel the acceptance of our community throughout the world,” Portalatin said. “We are seeing accomplishments and milestones generations prior would have never dreamed we’d overcome. It is our responsibility to hand that torch over to the next generation.”
Latinos Salud team members wore fluorescent yellow tank tops during the walk and were one of the first teams out of the gate. Leading by example, Portalatin said, shows future generations that “taking an active role in awareness, outreach and support can really make a difference and serve as a huge inspiration.”
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When the final numbers were tallied, $1.4 million was raised by the walk. The money will benefit eight HIV/AIDS service organizations.
Although billed as Florida’s AIDS Walk, there was no such recognition of the event by Governor Rick Scott or local representative George Moraitis. Jason King, legislative affairs manager for AHF’s southern bureau, said his health care agency is “monitoring” pending bills in Tallahassee.
Presented by AHF Pharmacy and Wells Fargo, the 2017 Florida AIDS Walk also featured a performance by the funk-dance-rock-pop band DNCE, whose smash hit “Cake By The Ocean” prompted local bakery Stork’s to serve cake during the concert.