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Why I Walk- Anna Jean's Story

Anna Jean with new puppy, Anna Pavlova
Anna Jean with new puppy, Anna Pavlova

Walking in Memory of the Uncle I Never Knew
By Anna Jean White

For me, AIDSWALK is more than just another fundraiser. AIDSWALK is so important to me because my Uncle Louis died of AIDS in 1992 at age 35, a decade before I was born. My Uncle is an inspiration to me to this day even though I never met him. Like me, he was a ballet dancer and he performed in New York City. My mom tells me that dance was my Uncle’s joy in life, and just like me, my Uncle Louis felt free when he was dancing. Louis is the main reason that I walk; to honor him, to remember him, and to be part of a community of people who care about those affected by this disease.
I don’t just walk to honor and remember my Uncle. I walk to change people’s lives. I know that SAAF helps the people in need with HIV/AIDS that are right here in southern Arizona. All the money that I raise, that all the Walkers raise, goes straight to the people in need. I have been walking and raising money for SAAF since I was four years old so this is my 10th year of walking and supporting SAAF. I love walking and being part of a community of people who care. I love the day of the walk, the positive energy, the tremendous amount of people who show up to support those affected by HIV/AIDS.
I still remember my first Walk. I was only four years old. At that age I didn’t fully understand what AIDS was or how exactly this disease happened. The only thing I knew was that it had taken my Uncle and I didn’t want anyone else to be taken by this disease. So at four years old, I got up early, tied my little shoelaces and went walking down to the university campus. For me, everything was very exciting, the crowds, the balloons, the camera crews – it was all pretty amazing. I knew these were all people who cared about helping save lives and not letting people die from the same thing my Uncle Louis had died from and that’s all that mattered to me. Through the years I went on to open the ceremonial quilts and one year my Uncle Louis’ quilt was even featured. I also was a speaker at the age of ten during the opening ceremony. I wrote my speech and then rehearsed it non-stop for about a month before the Walk. Standing in front of the crowd gave me a rush of happiness, I felt like I was making a difference and it was an amazing honor. AIDSWALK has been a way for me to stay connected to an Uncle I never met, a way for me to help save lives.
I am so excited for this year’s AIDSWALK as I will be bringing my new dog, Anna Pavlova, that I adopted from the Humane Society. She is named after one of my Uncle Louis’ favorite ballerinas. Ballet is a large part of my life and I would be so happy if my uncle were here to see me dance. But he is gone because of AIDS and that is why I Walk – because I don’t want anyone else to have to wonder what it would be like if they hadn’t lost an uncle, brother, sister, parent, child, grandparent, friend, partner or any loved one to AIDS. I Walk because I want to save lives in southern Arizona and by doing this I am honoring the Uncle that I never met, my Uncle Louis, my dance inspiration.
To support Anna Jean’s Walk directly, visit:
To join Anna Jean as a Walker at this year’s AIDSWALK, click here.