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Cheney Stadium hosts South Sound AIDS Walk

// Join the walk for a day and make a difference for a year

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Just because there’s a hint of fall in the air doesn’t mean Tacomans are ready for hibernation mode. Quite the contrary in fact, as the city’s annual South Sound AIDS Walk is slated to happen on Saturday, Sept. 20. Hundreds are expected to turn out for this fun and diverse event, attracting individuals and families alike, and it all kicks off at 9 a.m. at Cheney Stadium.

Each year at this time volunteers are working hard to present an event that’s at once a fundraiser, memorial to those who have passed, and a celebration of life, while caring people form teams of friends and family to help raise money for Pierce County AIDS Foundation’s clients served in Pierce and Thurston counties. This year’s goal is to raise $75,000. With funds raised at the Walk, PCAF provides support to more than 700 people who are currently living with the disease and reaches thousands more with prevention outreach. The South Sound AIDS Walk also acts as the only such walk to benefit Olympia, where PCAF has had an office since 2012.

“We really encourage people from Olympia to come,” Rose said, “because the money raised helps Olympia too. This is the only ‘Olympia’ walk – we’re it.”

In addition to the friendly camaraderie and upbeat atmosphere that always permeate the AIDS Walk, there will be some great entertainment including Tacoma’s own powerhouse performer, singer and songwriter Kim Archer.

“We are thrilled to have Kim Archer performing for us. We’re very excited about that,” said PCAF’s Director of Development and Communications Jill Rose.

Another highlight will be returning emcee Amada Westbrooke, host on TV Tacoma. PCAF Executive Director Duane Wilkerson will give the official welcome – and be sure to keep an ear out for a big announcement that will be made from the stage concerning some great news for PCAF. There will be bright red ribbons to wave in the breeze as walkers walk, art projects to get involved in and resource booths to visit from local non-profits.

The walk starts on the Cheney Stadium play field and heads off to a nature trail then back to the stadium for a total of just over two miles. Before heading out to walk, though, participants can fuel up on complimentary pastries and coffee then after the Walk for lunch enjoy a pulled pork sandwich bar courtesy of Dickies Barbecue Pit.

This year’s theme is “It’s More Than Just a Walk,” and while this has been true for all AIDS walks, Wilkerson said this year the theme is especially true given that AIDS is still among us in 2014, approaching approximately 35 years since the disease became a worldwide epidemic.

“The 2014 AIDS Walk bears witness to two important messages that we want the community to hear and to act upon,” Wilkerson said. “One is a longtime message, and one is a new hopeful message. The longtime message is that we walk, openly and proudly, with people living with HIV who still experience the stigma that has been an ugly part of this epidemic from the beginning. It is time for the stigma to end!

“The new message is that while the epidemic is not over, it could be in the foreseeable future IF we put our focus and efforts to end HIV.”

Wilkerson invited very person reading this article to “come join us and be part of the message yourself!”

Rose echoed Wilkerson’s invitation. “Your being [at the walk] makes an impact the whole year long, and it helps throughout the year.”

Young people in particular are encouraged to attend, as they bring a fresh perspective to the Walk. “Over the years, fewer people are coming for the memorial aspect of the walk and more are coming for the social justice aspect,” Rose said. “Youth who come often don’t know someone who died of AIDS because things are different now but they do care about social justice and equality.” This reflects Wilkerson’s call to join these youth and help end the hurtful social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

It’s not too late to form a team and register. Visit

http://www.PierceCountyAIDS.org to learn more, and find out how you can be a “virtual” walker if you can’t make it to the event. There is no cost to register or to walk. “Just come and be part of the community and enjoy the day,” Rose said.

As a special incentive to attract walkers, a “1+1=3” raffle for a dinner and hotel weekend getaway package will be held in which individual walkers will get three raffle tickets if he/she brings someone to walk with them. More prizes are being offered in the Billboard Challenge. Take a selfie in front of any of the six South Sound AIDS Walk billboards around town (there are six of them), send it to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and you will be entered into a raffle to win a great prize.