“Today, we have the technology and the knowledge to end AIDS!” AIDS Foundation of Chicago President/CEO John Peller kicked off the fourteenth annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 26 with these words, setting the stage for a day of hope and remembrance.
The event welcomed more than 2,500 runners, walkers and volunteers who, at press time, had raised more than $386,000 in individual donations for 36 organizations that support people living with HIV and AIDS in the Chicago metropolitan area.
5k and 10k runners and 5k walkers streamed in to Soldier Field’s south lawn under a sun-drenched sky, writing on signs honoring their loved ones, checking in with sponsors and community organizations at more than 40 booths and stretching before they hit Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.
After Peller and WGN-TV entertainment reporter Dean Richards kicked off the event’s opening ceremonies, attendees were graced with a performance of “Seasons of Love” from Broadway musical RENT by the cast of Artists Giving Back’s Dec. 1 production of the musical. Longtime HIV activists Patricia Johnson and Evany Turk closed the opening ceremonies with a rousing call to continue to advocate for people living with HIV in Illinois — especially in the wake of the continued budget stalemate in Illinois.
The 5k winners were Chicagoans Christopher Phillips and Colleen Rogers, and the 10k winners were Chicagoans Preston Lockwood and Caroline Zent. A full list of participant finish times is available at aidsrunwalk.org.
After the race, runners and walkers viewed the stoic NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt panels on display. Many guests participated in free HIV screening at testing trucks south of Soldier Field and no-cost meningitis vaccinations sponsored by the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Funds raised through AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will benefit programs and services for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and 35 other metropolitan organizations that provide life-saving services to people living with and vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Since it was established in 2001, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago has netted nearly $5 million to battle the epidemic.
Fundraising totals for AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will continue to grow, as donations will be accepted throughout autumn. To donate or learn more, visit aidsrunwalk.org or call 312-334-0946.