On Sunday, Oct. 16, I woke up at 6:30 a.m., sleepy. But when I realized what I was about to do I jumped out of bed and put on my AIDS Walk T-shirt. I texted my friends to make sure they were awake and getting ready to go walk. I changed my Facebook status to “Getting ready for AIDS Walk 2011!”
I had been getting ready for this since the summer when I started recruiting people at my school to do the AIDS Walk. We raised money by making T-shirts and selling them to the kids and parents at my school. The shirts were designed by my friend Roxanne and we wore them during the AIDS Walk. We sold about 40 T-shirts for $10 each and donated the $200 profit the morning of the walk. People who couldn’t walk still bought the shirt because they could contribute to AIDS Walk without walking, and they liked the design. It was an easier way to raise money than asking someone to donate $10.
The AIDS Walk raises money for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). The money goes toward HIV prevention and to support people living with HIV and AIDS. I’ve organized a team from my school for the past three years. It is important to me because I know people who have HIV, including family and friends. They’ve remained healthy because they’re controlling the HIV with drugs and it hasn’t developed into AIDS yet. I know there are many other people in the same situation who are being helped by the AIDS Walk.
The morning of the walk I was so excited that I skipped breakfast because I wanted to get out the door. Some of my friends met me at my house and then we picked up the rest of my friends. When we arrived at the park in West Hollywood where all the teams meet up, we saw a bunch of kids from our school in their T-shirts, signing in and getting ready to walk. I felt good that the people I had recruited from my school showed up. We had more than 20 people on our team.
Six miles aren’t so bad when you’re with friends
Getting ready to start, everyone was packed together. The most exciting time was right when we started because the team wasn’t tired and we were all still together. The six miles that we walk each year are long, but every year our team finds ways to make them exciting. There were people from other schools doing call-and-response cheers and our team started doing them too. My friend had a balloon on her belt loop. She walked under scaffolding and it got stuck. Her eyes got big and we all laughed. The balloon came off her belt loop and flew away.
About 15 minutes into the walk we turned a corner and there were people protesting. They held signs that said things like “Homo Sex is Sin.” I wasn’t surprised because I had seen protesters at AIDS Walk before but it’s frustrating every year. I can’t believe they’re protesting finding a cure for a disease. Having a disease isn’t a lifestyle that somebody chooses. Protesting someone wanting to be healthy doesn’t make sense. My friend Annabelle said to me, “I just wish we could walk in peace.”
We were tired but proud when we crossed the finish line. We were all hot and my friend Devon started a water fight with Dana and Angela. Dana got drenched. I laughed about it even though Dana did not feel the same way. We got handed our certificates and our team gave each other high fives and took pictures. Crossing the finish line made me feel great about what I accomplished.
I went home, showered and then laid around because I was really tired and my feet hurt. But one afternoon of feeling tired is worth contributing to an event I feel is important. This year the AIDS Walk raised $3 million and had about 30,000 walkers. I felt accomplished and like I had wrapped up a cool part of my life since I’m a senior and I won’t be organizing my school’s team anymore. It was a good end to three years of supporting a great cause. I know that I will continue to support APLA even after I graduate. I can’t wait to hear who will continue the AIDS Walk tradition at my school after I’m gone.