Each September when Kay Holladay comes out for AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City, her heart swells with pride. Back in the 1990s, Holladay was instrumental in taking a struggling group, helping set up a board of directors and incorporating it as a nonprofit organization.
I look around at the people who come out to walk today, and it makes me so happy, Holladay told Oklahoma Gazette. It is families, children, teens, university students such a diverse crowd. And that really is the face of HIV and AIDS.
This years AIDS Walk and RED Run 5K event is Sept. 25 at Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W. Reno Ave. The run begins at 9 a.m., and the walk starts at 2 p.m.
I have such a sense of pride when I see what the walk has become, Holladay said. So many of the groups who participated years ago like Planned Parenthood and Other Options are still around and dedicated to the cause and to our community. So many others have played an important role in shaping the group and ultimately helping those in need.
Throughout the past couple decades, AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City has worked to raise community awareness about HIV and AIDS. The group has raised funds to support organizations that provide direct care, support services and education.
Recent statistics show increases in the young population under age 25, said Verna Meadows, AIDS Walk OKC board president. They are the most newly diagnosed and the most at-risk.
While modern treatment has made HIV a more manageable illness, the needs remain for those who are diagnosed and those at risk of contracting HIV and developing AIDS.
The need for education is still there. In addition, AIDS is not the death sentence of the 80s, so people are living normal life spans if they stay in care, she said. Other issues related to aging must be addressed for this population as well.
The walk is where it all started in 1998, Meadows said, and then a few years ago, organizers established the 5K event.
The RED Run is now in its eighth year, Meadows said. It is in the morning and gives those who enjoy running a chance to get a run in for a good cause.
The Walk is the nonprofits largest fundraiser, Meadows said. Last year, one local church raised more than $10,000. Other events, including Pay it Forward at S&Bs Burger Joint and the annual Red Rooftop event, are held throughout the year.
We try to make AIDS Walk events something everyone can attend, Meadows said. In the early days, most fundraisers were held at the bars. That kept a large population out of these events. We have worked to make our fundraisers more inclusive as HIV and AIDS [impacts] all parts of the population.
For those who want to join the cause but not necessarily run or walk, a number of informational booths will be set up, and entertainment begins at noon. Pets are not allowed on the running course. AIDS Walk registration is free. RED Run registration is $30-$35.
Learn more at aidswalkokc.org.
Print headline: Pride stride, AIDS Walk OKC and RED Run return to Myriad Botanical Gardens Sept. 25.