Monday, July 21, 2008

San Francisco Aids Walk 2008

I completed the AIDS Walk in San Francisco today. It was an amazing experience and a unique opportunity to hear, meet, and talk with different people in the walk. Many walk in memory of those they have lost or in support of those living with HIV/AIDS.

For 2008: “Twenty-five thousand walkers, coupled with support from many leading Bay Area corporations, raised a near-record total of $4,512,934” Definitely an accomplishment, given our current economy.

The money raised through the walk benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which gives grants to various HIV/AIDS organizations within the Bay Area. It is a great example of cost-effective fundraising and extraordinary community activism. It's always been about "changing the course of the epidemic."

The big ask from me was not whether I could walk 10km (which was questionable as well) but to get myself out of the bed on a Sunday morning! Thousands of people turned up early morning in spite of the slight drizzle in the morning and the cloudy day. People were singing and dancing along all the way and enjoying every minute of it. Well, at least for the first 2 miles :)

The Golden Gate Park is green all around and the flora and fauna kept me engaged in some meaningful photography. Music and dance was abundantly represented by many people all along. 94.9 FM station had speakers on carts which they dragged along with them the entire route blasting music ... good marketing! The belly dance troupe kept a lot of people entertained especially the photographers because of the vivid colors.

The restrooms/portable toilets were overcrowded and felt like the people will have to wait it out until tomorrow before they get a chance. The good part: every other mile or so refreshments were available including water, cereal bars, fruits and a variety of other snacks to pep you up.

Well, an event of that magnitude without 'change' ain't possible. Yes, there were plenty of supporters carrying 'Obama' placards over their heads throughout the walk. It was quite heartening to see that the corporate world also had a significant presence with the likes of Gap, Chevron, Wachovia, Target, Starbucks, and many others. All of them had their own t-shirts with the company logo's on it and a nifty slogan.

I was a part of the University of California, Berkeley team and was wearing an orange t-shirt to show the Cal pride. The incessant cheers for 'Go Bears' I got throughout the walk left me to wonder!... perhaps the difference between me and the 'bear' had dissolved? The Berkeley team raised about $39,000 and the wonderful Karen Gee had a big part in it. She inspired and motivated people the last couple of weeks diligently to register and raise funds.

Former American Idol finalists performed on stage at the post-walk concert. Personally, I had a great time at the event besides making me feel a part of something big. And for a good cause! The self revelation for me: I can definitely walk more than 15 Km at a stretch!!

Click here to see more photos.

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