Participants and organizers of the 14th annual First Frost AIDS 5k Walk/Run at Thompson Park said Sunday that while education and outreach for the namesake disease has come a long way in the past several decades, more awareness and acceptance are needed.
That starts with youth, according to AIDS Community Resources Health Executive Director Michael E. Crinnin. Walkers, runners and sponsors of the event helped raise $46,881 for ACR Health youth programs in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
If were not talking directly to young people about HIV then were never contributing, he said. Thirteen years ago, when we started this, people said, Id love to come but why would you do an AIDS walk? People who were HIV-positive were thinking theyd out themselves. It was sad, but real. That was 13 years ago. So many people are involved, and now, Id bet theres more people here under 25 than not.
More than half of the Samaritan Medical Center-sponsored HIfiVe team were youths, and one of them, John Taylor, 12, took home the fastest youth award, for having completed the 5k in just 25 minutes.
In the midst of runners and walkers was a group of women who walked most of the event. More important to those family members than receiving a decorated paper crown for having raised at least $500 was the message about acceptance and awareness they too want to see spread.
My cousin, Alfie, died of AIDS, said Kathie S. Liberatos, one of the women from Carthage. I think its a wonderful cause here. Weve come a long way with AIDS, and I think its because of things like this.
She and her sister, Julie A. Laureano, and cousin Tammy M. Charette reminisced about their relative, and how back in the 1980s, in a downstate hospital, the staff slid his meals through a door because they feared getting AIDS from even touching the dying man.
AIDS cases were first reported in the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Back then, Mrs. Liberatos said, people were afraid of AIDS and didnt know much about it.
Education and prevention programs, such as ones overseen by ACR Health, have helped turn that around, she said. ACR Health development associate Jacki C. Coe said the walk/run has been kept fun and entertaining, and also has spurred friendly competition among teams. Last year, top fundraiser and top team fundraiser leader Carmen A. Sweet challenged teams to beat his monetary amount. Mrs. Coe said many generous people tried, such as those involved with Team Armadillo, from All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 1330 Gotham St., who had raised funds for the past six months.
The top youth fundraising team was the Teen AIDS Task Force from Indian River Central School District, with a total of $4,685 collected.
For more information on ACR Health and the programs it offers, visit its website, www.aidscommunityresources.com.