Steppin’ Out with the 2009 Walk For Life

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Once again, the Utah AIDS Foundation is inviting Utahns to lace up their sneakers, leash their dogs, grab some friends or co-workers and hit the streets of Salt Lake City for the 21st annual Walk For Life, a 10K (approximately 6 mile) walk/run to raise money for the foundation’s prevention and client services programs.

“The support we receive from this event makes sure those most at risk receive accurate information and those infected receive the best possible care,” said Nathan Measom, UAF’s Development Director.

“Prevention education is definitely more important than ever right now,” said Measom, because HIV infections in Utah have risen drastically in the past few years, particularly between people between 14 and 24 years old.

In 2008, approximately 300 walk participants, who gather pledges before and during the event, raised “about $50,000” for the foundation, said Measom.

“This year, we would like to increase it to at least $75,000,” he continued “It’s a difficult time for people [because of the economic downturn], so we’re hoping we can get everyone’s support.”

To encourage people to come out (the foundation hopes at least 500 will show), Measom said the walk is going to “mix things up” a little bit as it moves into its second decade. This year will see the first annual Bike for Life, a 22-mile bike tour held the same day and also beginning in Liberty Park at 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 19 (the route will go through downtown Salt Lake City). Utah AIDS Foundation volunteers will be placed along the bike route to help riders fundraise along the way.

“We had a lot of people in the community tell us they wanted that aspect,” Measom said of the bike ride. “I drove [the route] today and became more and more impressed with the people who will tackle it.”

Fundraising will also be easier than ever for internet-savvy walkers and bikers. As in last year’s walk, participants can register online and build a build a fundraising Web page.

“It’s very simple, very easy, and it was pretty successful for us last year,” said Measom.

Groups who want to walk together, including co-workers members of religious or civic organizations, can also register as a team. Teams can range from two to more than 100 individuals, and teams with more than 25 members as of Sept. 12 will qualify to have their own meeting station at the walk. Teams can be registered online, by fax, by phone at (801) 487-2323, by mail or in person at the foundation’s offices.

As always, dogs who don’t mind the presence of other canines or the noise and bustle of a crowd are more than welcome to walk (leashed) alongside their humans.

Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m. at Liberty Park, on Sept. 19. A warm-up and welcome will follow at 8:30 and the walk will kick off promptly at 9:00. The walk will end at noon at the 9th and 9th Street Festival, 900 E 900 S, which has partnered with the Walk for Life in the past. Participants can then spend the afternoon unwinding and listening to some entertainment courtesy of the foundation’s two groups for gay and bisexual men: The Village and Hermanos de Luna y Sol.

“They’re doing some fun performances that I think will be pretty entertaining,” said Measom.

As always, participants of all ages and ability levels are welcome on the route.

“It’s very family friendly, we have people in wheelchairs and strollers,” said Measom, adding that participants need not walk all six miles. “We have people who cut up the street and just head to the festival. It’s not required [to finish the walk], we just encourage everybody to show up. When you see a big crowd of people walking down the street, that’s a sign of community support, and I think in this day and age it’s important to show that people are behind us. It helps us out.”

Registration for the walk is free, and all participants are encouraged to raise pledge money. A number of prizes are also available for fundraising goals: a Walk for Life shirt for $40 raised; a shirt and pin for $150; and a shirt, pin and hat for $250. Individuals who raise $500 or more will receive all of these incentives as well as entry into the walk’s 500 Club, where they will receive a polo shirt and an invitation to a special party to be held this fall.

For more information visit utahaids.org.

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