By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Senior Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY – The 23rd Annual AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City returns to the Downtown Myriad Gardens, 301 W. Reno, on Sunday, September 19. This year’s event is themed “You Have the Power.”
The family friendly festival starts at 12 p.m. on the Devon Lawn and the Walk steps off at 2 p.m.
The event will also be live streamed via Facebook for those who are unable to attend.
The 2021 AIDS Walk Grand Marshall is David Rackley. David is the Director of Community Engagement for 84 Hospitality Group, which is responsible for restaurants such as Empire Slice House, Neon Coffee Co., Goro Ramen, and Burger Punk.
From Chandler, Oklahoma, among his passions, David enjoys serving his community through volunteerism with organizations such as Other Options, Inc. Friends Food Pantry where he serves as Board Member Emeritus after serving as Board member for four years followed by a five-year term as board President.
All proceeds benefit AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City, Inc.
The Walk will be followed by an after party at Social Capital craft beer restaurant, located at 517 S. Hudson Avenue.
The mission of the AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City is to build awareness about HIV/AIDS and to raise funds to support the work of nonprofit organizations that provide HIV/AIDS direct care, support services, and education.
“We have reached a point where ‘pandemic’ has become a part of everyone’s vocabulary; however, conversations around the AIDS epidemic have dwindled,” said Cameron Collins, AIDS Walk of OKC President. “This is alarming as we see a national increase in new HIV infections among African American and Latino communities, as well as in all races under the age of twenty-five.
“The 23rd Annual AIDS Walk is Oklahoma Cities opportunity to spotlight the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic,” Collins continued. “It is our intent to create a space that honors the nearly eleven thousand Oklahomans we have lost to AIDS, that educates on HIV prevention, and that combats the stigma around those living with HIV.
“As the only active AIDS Walk in the state, all funds raised by the event are invested into organizations that help all Oklahomans.”
Participants can create a walk team with friends, coworkers, church groups, family, or walk individually. Donations can be preregistered via Eventbrite or at the registration booth during the event. Walk Teams can check in on the day of the event.
All participants donating or raising $50 or more will receive a free 2021 AIDS Walk shirt.
Since 1998, AIDS Walk has distributed more than $685,000 to HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations serving the greater Oklahoma City community through direct health services, HIV/AIDS education and prevention and community awareness.
The mission is achieved by holding an annual Walk in downtown Oklahoma City, as well as several smaller fundraisers held throughout the calendar year.
Funds raised by participants and by corporate donations are distributed to eligible nonprofit HIV/AIDS organizations. Since 1998, over $565,000 has been returned to the community to benefit people living with HIV disease.
The Walk’s visibility heightens awareness about HIV, which is a totally preventable disease, according to the press release. The event gives the HIV community’s organizations an opportunity to help organize the Walk and use it as a tool to increase HIV testing and prevention education.