May 31, 2012 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
Educating our youth.
For 20 years, this has been the primary goal of AIDS Community Resources, specifically the organization’s Teen AIDS Task Force, which has reached 5,572 young people in the nine-county coverage area including Onondaga County since inception. To continue efforts, ACR aims to raise $220,000 for the organization’s 20th annual fundraising event, the AIDS Walk/Run held this Sunday at Beaver Lake Nature Center.
“The AIDS Walk/Run began in 1993 and has always taken place at Beaver Lake Nature Center. It was originally going to be at Onondaga Lake Park, but flooding was very bad that year and we moved to Beaver Lake at the last minute. It was like coming home. What a wonderful location,” said Jean Kessner, the media and community relations person for ACR.
The first years of the event, participants were those who had been affected by AIDS, as well as their families and loved ones, Kessner said. Now the event draws those same families, as well as professionals, educators and businesses including Empower Federal Credit Union, which joined as the title sponsor allowing the event to grow “exponentially” over the years.
“One hundred percent of the money raised stays in Central New York to benefit ACR’s youth HIV/STD prevention programs and client support services,” Kessner said, adding that only 3 percent of the billions of dollars spent on AIDS in the United States is allocated to prevention programs, so it is up to individual communities to provide outreach.
And it’s not just about fundraising.
“The AIDS Walk/Run means much more to us than just raising the money we need to run our youth prevention programs,“ Kessner said, adding it is the support and acceptance of those gathered that really matters. “In the 31 years of AIDS, it has certainly not always been that way, and we treasure the feeling.”
In addition to the Teen AIDS Task Force, ACR also runs the Q Center and support groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Most recently, ACR announced a new program titled Safety First Syringe Exchange Program during a press conference held yesterday in Syracuse. According to Kessner, SEP is a prevention strategy designed to help reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other serious infections among injection drug users. In fact, state-wide statistics show a 50 to 75 percent decline in new HIV infection rates thanks to the program.
After the press conference, officials painted a red stripe down Salina Street to kick off Paint the Town Red, five days of public awareness leading up to Sunday’s run.
Baldwinsville will also participate in painting the village red, according to ACR representative Jacki Coe.
“An AIDS Walk/Run sign has been approved for the Pride of Baldwinsville sign to be posted before the AIDS Walk/Run,” she said, adding, “The lock falls will turn red [this week] to commemorate the AIDS Walk/Run.”
The AIDS Walk/Run features a 5K fundraising walk and a 10K fundraising run with free food, drinks and prizes. Registration for the event begins at 8:30 a.m. and steps off at 10 a.m., rain or shine. To become a virtual walker/runner, visit aidswalkcny.com. A post party will be held at Quaker Steak and Lube (following the awards ceremony).
Why I walk
Gina Tonello, a member of the AIDS Community Resources Board of Directors and mother of two (Aly, 12, and Evan, 8) explains why she participates in the AIDS Walk/Run.
“As a Mom, I give my time and money to AIDS Community Resources because of the outreach services they provide to teens. Let’s face it. Even in 2012, sex and sexually transmitted disease are still taboo to talk about with our children. And yet, like it or not, our teens still have sex – often unprotected. I want my kids and their friends to be able to have open and frank conversations about sex and sexuality with knowledgeable counselors and educated and informed peers. ACR’s Teen AIDS Task Force provides that resource. For 20 years, the AIDS Walk/Run has been the primary source of funding for TATF. By making the time to join a team for the walk or just by donating, you’ll be helping facilitate this important, and frankly, life-saving program, for our most precious commodity: our kids.”
Tonello is the Community Relations District Manager for KeyBank, where she works as the main community liaison, coordinating events and spearheading internal communications for 59 KeyBank branches in 11 Central New York counties