Danforth Goff was never alone during AIDS Walk Michigan-Lansing. He also wanted to ensure those with HIV and AIDS wont feel lonely either.
We need to encourage people that there is hope, that they are not alone in this process, said Goff, a hemophiliac who contracted HIV through tainted blood products in 1980.
The 31-year-old Goff and Jennifer Parks, a grandmother who also has HIV, addressed participants during the fund-raisers initial festivities Sunday. These speakers were invited to the event for a specific reason, said Patrick Lombardi, director of volunteer services at the Lansing Area AIDS Network.
We wanted to dispel the myth, he said. This is not the disease of gay men and not the disease of IV (needle) users, this is a disease that anyone can get.
This is the seventh year the network has organized such a walk in the Lansing area.
Nearly 400 people gathered at Valley Court Park to walk the fund-raisers three-mile course along Grand River Avenue. Free food and entertainment were provided for attendees.
For the sixth year, the MSU Evans Scholars hosted the event and several MSU residence halls, fraternities and sororities also formed teams to participate. MSUs College of Veterinary Medicine took home two awards for the size of its team and Best Team Identifier, for having the most catchy team name.
(AIDS Walk Michigan-Lansing) is not just about raising money, Lombardi said. Its about standing with us and standing with people to face this epidemic.
To help the community gain more awareness of the AIDS epidemic, tables promoting education as well as safe sex methods and products were set up in the park.
It is important that people understand the best defense is to remain unaffected, said Kaye McDuffie, prevention specialist for the AIDS network.
Some found the products displayed during the event humorous. One such item was different-colored leis worn by walkers.
We like to introduce humor about sexuality because sexuality is supposed to be enjoyable, Lombardi said.
Also involved in the fund-raiser were different businesses and organizations who served as sponsors and walkers.
We had good participation from MSU, said Lonnie Bennett, the AIDS networks team recruitment manager.