AIDS Walk Returns

Clinic hopes to raise $1 million

At one moment Tuesday evening, Sept. 22, the online ticker for AIDS Walk Washington just passed the $415,000 mark in total donations. With 11 days till the Oct. 3 event, now in its 23rd year, there’s plenty of time to possibly reach the goal of $1 million.

But there’s more to AIDS Walk Washington, one of Whitman-Walker Clinic’s highest-profile fundraisers of the year, than money.

“It’s the community coming together,” says Dave Mallory, director of the fundraiser. “It’s a very upbeat kind of event. It’s done in a really uplifting kind of way. There are new participants who share their stories, new teams, new relationships we build. The framework may stay the same, but there’s always something new.”

One new aspect of this year’s walk is a relationship with Landover, Md.-based Giant Food. The grocery chain has begun partnering with the clinic, promoting the walk on the back of coupons and promoting WWC’s services at Giant pharmacies. Giant will also provide the water for walkers and runners Oct. 3.

One of those walkers will be Sutton Snook, whose partner of six years, Joseph Pasquariello, died of AIDS-related complications in January 2006. That year, Snook started participating in the walk.

“This just kind of offsets his death to me,” says Snook, who usually drafts a team who will offer a toast of bloody marys — a favorite of Pasquariello’s — after the walk. “I never did enough until it hit me so personally. I thought, ‘At the very least, I could do the walk.’ Now I [want to raise] at least a thousand dollars.”

Shawn Decker has also been boasting about his fundraising skills. On the blog he and his wife, Gwenn Barringer, maintain, “Shawn & Gwenn: A Boy. A Girl. A Virus,” the couple announce that they’re nearing the $2,000 mark. But Decker will get as well as he gives. The clinic will honor him with its 2009 Courage Award at the walk. Decker contracted the virus through tainted blood products when he was 11, resulting in his being booted out of his sixth-grade class. His first book, My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure, was released in 2006. Today, the Charlottesville, Va., couple work together as HIV educators — with an obvious sense of humor.

But if Decker is not sufficiently entertaining, walkers and runners will also be treated to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, the D.C. Cowboys, and the Culture Shock dancers.

With AIDS Walk Washington still more than a week away, one person who is already enjoying the feel-good returns is Ted Hobart, the walk’s outreach coordinator, as well as the man responsible for adding the 5K run, now in its third year.

“There are a lot of people attempting to take ownership of the epidemic and they see AIDS Walk as a stepping stone to doing something in their community,” Hobart says of what he’s seen during his outreach efforts. “I feel good to be a part of that.”

To register, or for more information about AIDS Walk Washington, visit www.aidswalkwashington.org. The pre-walk program begins at Freedom Plaza at 8:30 a.m. The run begins at 9 a.m., the walk at 9:15. Run registration is $35, walk registration is $25, and student-rate walk registration is $15. Registration for the walk only is available on the day of the event at the Warner Building at 12th and E Streets NW.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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