With barely a cloud in the blue sky overhead, 3,500 participants gathered for the 13th Annual AIDS Run and Walk Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 14, as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn gave the countdown for runners/walkers to take off.
The runners sprinted south from Grant Park's Avery Field and past scenic Northerly Island, while the walkers headed north toward DuSable Harbor. The event, a fundraiser the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) organized, included approximately 140 teams, hundreds of volunteers and scores of family and friends cheering from the sidelines.
By the end of the event, the event raised nearly $380,000. Fundraising will continue through October with the goal of supporting HIV/AIDS programs and services in Chicago and the surrounding area. AFC channels 90 percent of the dollars raised to participating HIV/AIDS community organizations in Chicago, with particular focus on the neighborhoods most affected by the epidemic.
This year, 31 community organizations participated.
"This event is important not only to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago but also to the community. It's the only event where everyone can come together at once to raise money and awareness and to commemorate the tremendous work we do," John Peller, AFC's interim president and CEO, said.
For participants, the event is both an opportunity to give as well as a way to remember those who have been lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Mick Schlueter, who participated in the 5K, indicated that this was one of his best years in the race. "It's a great race and a really inspiring event. It's always helpful to give to HIV/AIDS organizations, and I raised more this year than I ever have," Schuelter said.
Vinny Cousineau, whose partner L.T. finished sixth in the 5K, wore a shirt with the names of people affected by HIV/AIDS. "It's a way to keep people in our hearts and minds. I ask people to contribute names of loved onesuncles, siblings, friendsand donate whatever they can," Cousineau said.
Panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display. Free HIV testing was available along with information about HIV/AIDS prevention, including Global Female Condom Day.
In addition to Quinn, a number of other elected officials were in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris. WGN entertainment reporter and film critic Dean Richards emceed the event.