Metro Weekly

Walk to End HIV adopts “superhero” theme

Ad campaign for annual fundraiser will encourage walk participants to dress in hero costumes

Staffers as superhero characters in Whitman-Walker Health's educational ad campaign for the Walk to End HIV (Photo: Whitman-Walker Health).

Staffers as superhero characters in Whitman-Walker Health’s educational ad campaign for the Walk to End HIV (Photo: Whitman-Walker Health).

One doesn’t have to don a cape and tights to be a hero in the fight against HIV. But it might just be fun to do so while raising money for a worthy cause.

The Walk to End HIV, an annual fundraiser that benefits Whitman-Walker Health, is going into “superhero” mode this October, encouraging participants to dress up in hero costumes, with a contest for the best costume following the walk. As the District’s top nonprofit community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment and care, Whitman-Walker — as well as its community partners — relies heavily on donations, particularly those raised by the Walk to End HIV, to continue its programming and services for at-risk populations and people living with the virus. 

To raise awareness of the walk and educate the public about the threat still posed by HIV, Whitman-Walker has launched an educational ad campaign called “Superheroes Don’t Fly, They Walk to End HIV.” The campaign will feature a superhero cartoon mini-series and will utilize social media, as well as print, digital and broadcast advertising, to emphasize the importance of donating and walking on behalf of the cause. The campaign will also rent ads on Metro buses throughout the months of September and October.

“We want everyone who is touched by this campaign to feel empowered that yes, they too, can be a superhero in the fight against HIV,” Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman-Walker Health, said in a statement. “Walking through our health centers every day, I am reminded that normal people have the power to do extraordinary things to improve the lives of others. That’s what this campaign is about.”

Now in its 29th year, the 5-kilometer timed run and walk seeks to raise as close as possible to $1 million annually through individual donations or team sponsorships. Last year, more than 7,000 participants helped raise $700,000 in total, a little lower than Whitman-Walker’s total of $800,000 the previous year. This year’s goal has been set at $850,000. 

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the campaign that signals the arrival of a new era in how we think about HIV  and the role we all have to play in bringing about the end of the epidemic,” said Jacquetta Brooks, manager of the Mautner Project of Whitman-Walker Health, who is one of six staff members appearing in the superhero campaign. “Sure, we don’t actually have superpowers, but that doesn’t mean that we all can’t help erase stigma, encourage testing, support those who are in care, and spread the word about new HIV prevention methods.”

The Walk to End HIV will take place on Oct. 24, 2015, beginning at 7 a.m., with the 5-kilometer timed run beginning at 9:15 a.m. and the walk at 9:20 a.m., from Freedom Plaza, located at Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street NW. For more information, or to register, visit walktoendhiv.org.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com