Jones works for AID Atlanta, which provides most of the organizational support for the walk. While $5.4 million of AID Atlanta’s $7.5 million budget comes from federal grants, the AIDS Walk provides the largest percentage of unrestricted funds, meaning this money fills the gaps.
“Grants are wonderful but they are very specific about what they will pay for and what they won’t pay for,” Jones said. “A grant may cover all the costs of a program for example, except for phones.”
Beneficiaries this year besides AID Atlanta include AID Gwinnett, Project Open Hand, Living Room Inc., Aniz, AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, Jerusalem House and Positive Impact.
“It’s important that the AIDS Walk remain a successful fundraiser because I think we’ve seen situations with ARCA and Positive Impact where those two organizations have been denied funding by the Department of Health…. The walk is the largest of its kind in the Southeast, and it’s completely unrestricted funds,” Jones said.
“All of the money raised stays in Atlanta and goes to help organizations who serve people who live in this area,” he said.
Registration begins at 11 a.m. on Oct. 21 and a pre-race concert begins at 1 p.m. The band and speakers have not been announced yet, but organizers have named two spokesmen and WSB-TV anchor Jovita Moore as its masters of ceremony.
Alex Wan, the first openly gay man to sit on the Atlanta City Council, will represent the city. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta), who has spoken at a number of AIDS Walk, will not be present, because he will be traveling with President Obama, Jones said.
‘Everyone should make a difference’
The AIDS Walk is supported by both straight and gay groups, and this year’s spokesmen reflect that: Lance Lacy, an openly gay HIV negative man, and Walter Bradley, who is straight and HIV positive.
Lacy has been the team captain of the SunTrust corporate team for the past nine years, and during that time has raise approximately $83,000 for the AIDS Walk.
“The first year I was captain I just wanted to want to walk, and I didn’t want to go by myself. I noticed there was no SunTrust team, so I started one,” Lacy said.
What started with just a handful of people has grown to a team with over 100 walkers.
“To start with it wasn’t that much, but over the years it’s just grown,” he said.
Lacy wanted to make a contribution because of his experience with his first boyfriend, and the education he received that Lacy credits with saving his life.
“For me personally, my first experience with HIV was my first relationship. Several months in my boyfriend got tested and it had progressed to the point where he had full blown AIDS,” Lacy said.
“Here he is my first love, and I’m just head over heels in love with him and he was positive. So I started trying to learn everything I could. Anything I could get about it I did; any literature I could find, I ate it up,” he said.
Lacy credits gay youth groups and early community education for the reason why he continued to date his first boyfriend (they are not currently together) and not contract HIV.
“When I first came out I started going to gay youth groups and they kept preaching protect yourself, and I did, and that’s why I’m still negative,” Lacy said.
Lacy doesn’t consider himself politically active, but said he has focused his activism on the AIDS Walk.
“This is definitely where my passion lies. I’ll help anyone else, but this is the one thing every year that our friends know I’ll be harassing them for donations until they give us money,” he said.
The crowds of walkers and runners are filled with people who focus their passion on this one event every year. Christopher Evans raised $7,000 for this year’s walk, but shied away from any public credit.
“I really am just a wallflower,” he said. “I just believe everyone should make a difference in the world, or be the change they want to see — to quote an overused line.
“This is just my little part, that’s all.”
Top photo: Last year’s AIDS Walk Atlanta raised $1 million; organizers home to top that total with the 2012 walk, scheduled for Oct. 21 starting from Piedmont Park. (Photos by Brent Corcoran / RNZ Photography)