GW students unite for AIDS Walk

GW’s AIDS Walk Committee said it hopes the more than 600 students and faculty on GW’s team remember one thing when they assemble on the Quad Sunday morning.

“At GW, we walk together,” said Michelle Proser, an AIDS Walk committee member. “We want to unite the GW community and give back to the D.C. community.”

Proser said Sunday’s AIDS Walk will be a special event for the GW community.

“At how many events during the year are we promoting total GW unity?” she asked. “There are actually very few times student groups are encouraged to work together as one.”

In past years, GW students and faculty registered for the walk as individual groups, a trend the AIDS Walk Committee said it is trying to eliminate. This year, the team will include between 600 and 800 members of the GW community who will march through the streets of Washington together, Proser said.

GW’s team will be part of an estimated 25,000 people marching to support the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a primary resource for HIV-positive and AIDS patients in the greater Washington D.C. area, according to literature from the Whitman-Walker Clinic.

“The AIDS Walk is intended to show people that it is OK to care, that it’s not something to be ashamed of,” said Jason Franklin, another AIDS Walk committee member. “As a community, we need to say that we support more money going to fund AIDS research.”

The 10-kilometer walk is primarily a fundraising event. Walkers are encouraged, but not required, to solicit pledges or donations.

“Last year, the GW team raised $8,000,” Proser said. “But it’s really too early to say how much this year’s team will raise.”

The eight-member GW AIDS Walk Committee has been preparing its registration campaign since this summer.

“We sent out tons of e-mails and about 1,400 fliers to the faculty,” said Proser who is working on her fourth AIDS Walk. “We also have a table everyday at the Marvin Center. We’ve been pretty successful so far, but it would be great if we could reach our goal of 800 people walking this year.”

Last year, Proser said the committee hoped for 300 walkers to register. She said the GW community surprised it by doubling the number of participants.

“It is universally politically correct to come out and say you support the fight against AIDS,” said second-year committee member Adam Kinsinger. “That could be one reason the walk is so popular.”

Kinsinger said, for some members of GW’s team, the decision to participate in the walk is less about politics and more about humanity.

“If you’ve actually known someone with AIDS, you understand what a scary disease this is. It’s a disease of the disenfranchised and that is why it often gets swept under the rug when it comes to government funding allocation,” he said. “The end result is that people are dying from innocent acts.”

“This walk is special because you can actually see the support all around you,” Proser said. “Along the route, people hang huge banners that say `We love you walkers.’ “

“And it is such a good feeling to know that you are really doing something about a problem that touches so many lives,” Kinsinger said.

The committee made some of its own banners Tuesday night at a team-building party in the Marvin Center.

As she toiled over her own creation, first-time walker Diane Frost said, “I can’t wait to walk.”

The banners will be unfurled Sunday at 10:30 a.m. as the committee hosts a pre-walk celebration, including a free breakfast and prizes donated by local merchants. Free T-shirts also will be distributed to the first 400 attendants. More than $2,000 of funding for the committee was provided by more than 10 student and University groups.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the support we’ve received from the GW community,” Proser said. “I think we really will send a strong message to the rest of Washington that GW is a campus that cares.”

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