Funds raised through the 2012 AIDS Walk for Life in Winnipeg will support direct services for individuals living with HIV in the province. – Tara Fitzgerald
It’s been 20 years since Ken Mumford was diagnosed with HIV, but Sept. 23 was the first time he found himself among hundreds as part of the 2012 AIDS Walk for Life downtown.
After departing from the hour-long trek’s start-and-end point at Central Park, amidst the bustle of 200 walkers sandwiched between two escorting police cruisers, Mumford explained that something compelled him to finally join in this time.
“It’s hard to say exactly why, but it just felt like a good thing to do,” said Mumford.
The march was part of a nationwide event led by the Canadian AIDS Society, a country-wide coalition of various AIDS service organizations, and sponsored by Scotiabank.
Sane Dube, membership coordinator of the Nine Circles Community Health Centre, which organized the Winnipeg event, called the walk a “definite success.”
All funds raised through the event will be used exclusively in Winnipeg - as is the case with all of the other walks and their respective communities - for “direct services for individuals living with HIV,” she said.
“We just want to make a positive difference for as many people as we can,” she said.
The Winnipeg event raised more than $18,000, and will go towards HIV support programs administered by the Manitoba HIV Program.
Lexie Peloquin walked as part of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance of Dakota Collegiate, a student group from her high school. Her fellow students, walking alongside her, hoisted a banner bearing the group’s name.
Nine Circles member Erin Schillberg, along with her mother Marianne, also participated.
Now retired, Schillberg witnessed first-hand the North American AIDS crisis as a healthcare worker in the 1980s. She also lost a cousin to the disease.
“I’m just here to support Nine Circles and the work they do helping people with HIV,” said the younger Schillberg.
Kim Thomas, programs director for the Canadian AIDS Society, said the reasons for the walks themselves are as numerous as participants’ motivations for getting involved.
According to Thomas, some of the approximately 45 walks that took place this year focused heavily on fundraising, while others took place purely for sake of increasing awareness.
“We certainly see a lot of word spread that starts with people just driving by and asking, ‘What’s going on over there?’” she said.
While national fundraising totals are still being tallied, organizers expect to reach about $2 million, the amount raised last year from more than 7,500 walk participants nation-wide, Thomas said.
While not all fundraising participants in this year’s Winnipeg AIDS Walk for Life did so in groups, it was a team from the Health Sciences Hospital that raised the most money for the event.
So, when it comes down to it, what does the walk really accomplish?
“People often think there’s treatment (for HIV/AIDS) and life goes on as normal,” said Thomas.
“But the truth is people living with HIV and AIDS go through a great deal and really need a lot of support.
“And that’s what the walk is all about: people supporting each other.”