"With the economy the way it is and with the difficulty of raising funds that nonprofits experience right now, events like this are crucial to our overall ability to provide services to the people living with HIV, and to provide education in the community as well about HIV and how to prevent it," said Lola Thomas, executive director for the AIDS Alliance. "So we are very dependent, especially in a lot of our educational activities.
"We are very dependent on raising the money to do that through local fundraising events and donations. We do have grants come in that help us with many of the things that we do but not so much with all of the educational endeavors that we are seeking to do in the community to reach a broader range of people."
On April 30, the AIDS Walk/Run will be held at Dellinger Park, 100 Pine Grove Road in Cartersville. The run and walk, both 3.1 miles, will start at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., respectively. Pre-registration is encouraged and is $20 for individuals 13 and older and $10 for youths 12 and younger. The cost to enter increases the day of the event by $5.
In the benefit's third year, the AIDS Alliance is seeking 300 people, who may participate individually or in teams. In addition to contributing to the nonprofit with their entrance fees, participants are encouraged to solicit donations from the public. Last year's offering drew about 200 participants and raised $10,000.
Proceeds from the AIDS Walk/Run will help the nonprofit maintain its current level of services, some of which include transportation for clients, support groups, and prevention and housing programs. Based in Cartersville, the AIDS Alliance assists 110 HIV/AIDS clients, ranging in age from 14 to the mid-70s, in 10 northwest Georgia counties.
If its goal of raising $15,000 is met, the AIDS Alliance will be a step closer to its overall mission of increasing local funding -- donations and benefits -- to 10 percent.
Along with generating funds, AIDS Alliance board member Christopher McAbee said the benefit is a fun event that helps raise awareness for the organization.
"I enjoy most just the good, positive environment that the walk creates, and just the walking," he said. "It's usually really good weather, and it's a good opportunity to exercise and a good opportunity to exercise for a good cause. I think that's probably my biggest enjoyment -- doing something for a cause, [especially] something that I enjoy doing such as walking.
"One of our primary focuses at the AIDS Alliance is education. As you know, the AIDS walk is a fundraiser. So not only are we spreading awareness by having the AIDS Walk and being a physical presence in the community, this fundraiser allows us to do more work outside of the AIDS Walk. So it is a wonderful way to spread awareness, to let people know that we're out there. It makes us present in the community. It's a very fun, family-oriented event where we will have music, entertainment and food. I would just encourage the community to come out for a good, healthy event and enjoy the sunshine for a good cause."
For more information or to pre-register for the event, visit www.aidswalkcartersville.com or call 770-606-0953. Sponsorships also are available through Friday.