Walking the walk

Few events could motivate more than 600 GW students to wake up early on a Sunday morning to walk about six miles. Free breakfast, free T-shirts, and free condoms, while influential, were not the factors that drew students out of bed and into their sneakers Sunday. It was the desire to fight the spread of a fatal virus, AIDS.

GW students joined nearly two million members of the Washington community to walk in the 13th Annual AIDS Walk Washington. Walkers and sponsors donated money to assist the Whitman-Walker Clinic and other local AIDS service organizations, helping those in the Washington metropolitan area living with HIV and AIDS.

Walkers gathered in the afternoon near the Washington Monument, but for GW participants, the day began earlier. Free breakfast was served and free T-shirts were distributed in J Street in the morning for all participants from the school.

For organizers, especially those on the AIDS Awareness Committee, the group responsible for GW’s involvement this year, this day was the success of months of advertising and fund raising.

“I’ve been working on the project since this summer,” said Jason Franklin, AIDS Awareness Committee member. “We distributed 10,000 registration forms and promoted in all the residence halls.”

The committee, which was created through the Office of Community Service, raised $43,000 last year and had 756 student walkers, a number expected to reach about 1,000 this year.

“Because we don’t have a budget, such an outcome would not be possible without the donations of our sponsors,” Franklin said.

Donations came from Adams National Bank, the Office of Community Service Commission, College Democrats, College Republicans and many other student groups.

Most of the chit-chat at breakfast came from various student groups making signs and discussing plans for the day. Kelechi Nwosu, community service coordinator for the Black People’s Union, used telephone calls and e-mails to encourage members to participate. Many of her group’s members did come to walk, with signs in tow.

“We made little signs so not to overshadow GW signs, but to let people know we are here to help,” Nwosu said.

Another community service group, AmeriCorps, which has members working directly with the Whitman-Walker Clinic in D.C., staffed a table at the breakfast. Members distributed information, condoms, and sought to recruit interested volunteers.

“If students are interested in doing the AIDS Walk, they might want to volunteer weekly to do this type of thing,” said Amanda Crowel, an AmeriCorps member.

During the walk, motivational and informative speeches added to the walkers’ high spirits. Two hours and six miles later, they were able to stretch out and listen to performer Crystal Waters with the realization that their efforts are likely to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people battling AIDS and HIV in D.C.

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