Lansing AIDS walk brings awareness, donations

Tim Barron remembers when HIV and AIDS didn’t have names.

The Lansing Radio DJ said he knew friends who contracted the disease, saw the early stages of its research and publicity and now is doing his part to help.

Barron, a radio DJ for WQTX (92.1), emceed the Lansing Area AIDS Network’s, or LAAN, AIDS Walk Lansing/East Lansing 2010 Sunday, starting at Valley Court Park, 400 Hillside Court, circling around the Bailey Neighborhood and ending back at the park.

Matt Radick / The State News

The festivities began at Valley Court Park, with tents set up for participants and corporate sponsors for those registering. About 400 people showed up to participate in the walk and at the time of registration, almost $14,000 had been raised online, but another $5,000 to $6,000 is expected to be raised, said Jacob Distel, executive director of LAAN.

“Our goal is $20,000 when all is said and done,” said Olivia Martin, treasurer of the LAAN board.

Community members and city officials attended the event, raising money for awareness about HIV/AIDS. East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis spoke before the walk started, thanking everyone who had come out in support of LAAN, and was proud East Lansing could be a host for the event.

“It is a disease — and a disease like many others — that we have to find a cure for, and to have this many people out and participating, from my standpoint, says that we haven’t forgotten about that,” Loomis said. “This is a real cross section of our community that’s out here today to support this event.”

The crowd was entertained with performances by the Equality Band of Michigan, the Greater Lansing Gay Men’s Chorus and local recording artist Ahren Drew.

“This is sort of our annual gig, supporting the AIDS walk and LAAN,” said Chuck Middaugh, president of Greater Lansing Gay Men’s Chorus. “Years ago, we were asked if we would be interested in providing lunch
for the walkers, and that’s how it started.”

Middaugh said he personally has been affected by HIV/AIDS. His partner died five years ago because of the disease.

“It’s something all of us — everybody here — is touched by,” he said.
MSU’s Evans Scholars helped LAAN host the event. The group has been involved with the effort for 15 years. Evans Scholar is a scholarship program for students who have been involved in golf caddying.

“(We want to) help out those that have a problem and are in need,” said Adam Lang, mechanical engineering sophomore and an Evans Scholar. “We’re keeping (the walk) strong as a tradition.”

MSU groups including Delta Sigma Theta and Students for Multi-Ethnic Community Action also contributed to the efforts. Comparative culture and politics senior Courtney Hurtt, who is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, said the sorority was participating in the walk as part of its philanthropy.

Hurtt said she has a close friend affected by HIV/AIDS. She said as an African-American, she is passionate about the issue.

“I’ve always supported the issue because I think it’s relevant in the African-American community especially,” Hurtt said.

Lansing Community College Gay Straight Alliance advocate Frank Vaca said the attendance at the event shows how important the issue is for every community.

“As a gay man, this disease will probably eventually come my way, and I’ll be faced with that consequence of (if) I want to be safe, or if I don’t want to be safe,” he said. “And I hope I always continue to be safe.”

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