The Orlando AIDS Walk marched around Lake Eola for its 20th year to raise money for the Hope & Help Center on March 28.
The two mile walk, a fundraiser for HIV treatment and prevention in Central Florida, brought in more than $121,000 and 1,400 walkers according to Kristine Iverson, director of development and marketing for the Hope and Help Center.
Participation was up from 2014 when the AIDS Walk had 1,200 walkers and raised $140,000.
“Absolutely it was successful,” said Iverson. “It is amazing to see visually the number of people that come out and support and walk. It restores your confidence that we are moving forward.”
Orlando personality Madame PeeVira and keynote speaker Dick Donato, otherwise known as Evel Dick, began the day’s events with Donato talking about his personal experience with HIV. PeeVira then performed alongside her Dirty Curty team in memory of a long lost friend.
“Anytime I go and speak publicly, it’s just to create some awareness,” said Dick. “Even being able to touch one person, to make a difference in their own life, it’s what it’s all about, bottom line.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence led the walk followed by 89 registered teams and individuals. Onlookers graced the sidelines, cheering and swirling their noisemakers in support.
“As a former medical case manager, I have worked with clients that have been affected by HIV and AIDS,” said Sandra Anderson from Team Sandy. “We’re out here to educate, to communicate awareness and health. This is a wonderful cause here at the Hope and Health Center.”
Iverson announced during the closing speech that MAC Cosmetics raised the most money with a total of $6,392.
Teams weren’t the only ones to show their support. Walgreens, XL106.7 and the Parliament House were among the sponsors who turned up for the event. The latter of which has been a sponsor since the event’s birth.
“It’s just great to be a part of this big event,” said XL106.7 DJ Sondra Rae Valentino. “We just hope to raise a lot of money, of course, to show that people need to get tested and be aware of their status.”
Orlando’s AIDS Walk first started in 1995. Despite running for two decades, the event shows no signs of slowing down. Iverson is already expressing optimism about next year’s fundraiser.
“Our plan for next year is to keep growing bigger and stronger,” she said. “We had a total of 89 teams, we’ll have 100 next year.”
Photos by Brian Becnel