On the morning of Sunday, October 14th, 2018 hundreds of people gathered early in Downtown Tucson to show their support for the 30th Annual AIDSWALK Tucson.
Everyone has a different reason for walking, some very personal while others walk due to a strong sense of community. No matter the reason, the presence of approximately 500 participants and an additional 350 volunteers showed resounding support for the HIV/AIDS prevention and care services provided by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF).
The event began early with a fun run, where joggers traversed puddles under blue skies as they ran through the streets of downtown, being cheered on every time they circled through the main event stage. Shortly after, Wendell Hicks, SAAF’s Executive Director, took to the stage to remind everyone why they came out to support AIDSWALK: “We need you to continue this walk, to build on the strides we’ve made in fighting HIV/AIDS and to take the steps to move us closer to reducing the spread of new infections in our community.”
Over thirty years later, the Tucson community still stands up when it comes to helping the most vulnerable among us.
Wendell went on to ask the crowd full of hundreds of people to raise their hand if it was their first AIDSWALK. Many hands rose. For some it was their first AIDSWALK, for others, their tenth, twentieth, and even thirtieth.
As part of the 30th AIDSWALK Tucson, several individuals and organizations were honored for their continuing support. Danielle Bautista accepted an award for Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment for their 23 years of commitment and partnership as the AIDSWALK Title Sponsor since 1995. Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea was also honored as a longtime community partner for AIDSWALK for their 30 years of support. In addition, Curt Beal and Anne Maley were honored with paper prayers for their longtime support and received the awards of Longtime AIDSWALK Volunteer and Longtime AIDSWALK Walker respectively.
Just prior to bringing Cecilia Rose, Stefi, and BreakOut Studios onstage to help participants warm up with a dance before walking, Wendell stated, “We have traveled a long way and yet we still have so far to go. This walk represents the journey we’ve taken, the strides we’ve made, and the steps we still need to take.”
It’s with this thought that the starting ribbon was cut and around 500 individuals stepped forward in a wave of purple showing all of Tucson and all of Arizona that they care. They care about those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. They remember those who have been lost over the years. They want to see greater HIV prevention and care in the community. They know that it takes a community and that the work SAAF does everyday matters.