Students and faculty members joined more than 6,700 people in the 23rd annual AIDS Walk Washington early Saturday morning.
The event, which started at Freedom Plaza at 13th and K streets, shut down K Street as participants walked towards the U.S. Capitol to raise funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS, which studies have shown affects one in 20 adults in D.C.
The walk, which raised more than $770,000 for AIDS programs, drew groups of walkers from several GW Greek-letter organizations, student organizations and even residence halls. Chip Lewis, a spokesperson for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the HIV/AIDS program which will receive the raised money, said GW participants were an essential part of the walk.
“We love GW. They’ve raised a lot of money and awareness,” Lewis said. “It’s great to see them participating. They bring a lot of energy to the event.”
One of the largest student groups participating, Colonials Fight AIDS, was comprised of approximately 60 students and raised more than $3,000 for the walk, said Callie Freitag, a sophomore and Lafayette Hall house proctor.
“I decided to walk because I’m really into public health,” Freitag said. “I want to help raise awareness because AIDS has lost a lot of public urgency.”
Though groups began arriving as early as 7:30 a.m., energy was high and performers kept the crowd dancing. The D.C. Cowboys, a gay men’s dance group clad in beaters and cowboy hats, performed a dance routine as the walk began at 9 a.m. Techno music blared from the speakers on the main stage where Culture Shock D.C., a hip-hop dance group, performed street routines.
Marsha Lillie-Blanton, a professor of human development in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, walked with her daughter and several students from the school.
“It’s an important cause, it’s a good cause,” Lillie-Blanton said. “I chose to walk because it shows our support.”
Clerisse Lemke, a first-year student in SPHHS, said she decided to walk as a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I’ve been a student here for one month and I always hear about the AIDS problem,” Lenke said. “It’s important to walk and raise awareness because it’s such a big problem.”