Last Friday we saw pics of Hilary Duff switching on the lights at the Empire State Building in NYC in honor of the 24th Annual AIDS Walk New York that was scheduled for this weekend in the Big Apple. Today we learn that Hilary, her boyfriend Mike Comrie, actor Michael Urie and personality Carson Kressley were joined by over 450,000 people who trekked thru NYC to help raise 5.6 million for AIDS charities. Here are a few pics from yesterday’s AIDS Walk and some deets about the event itself:
The 24th AIDS Walk New York, the annual walkathon that raises money for local AIDS service organizations, took place in Manhattan on Sunday. Organizers estimate that more than 45,000 people attended, raising as much as $5.6 million. Many participants walked in honor of people who they had lost to HIV/AIDS: a brother, a sister, a friend. Monique Parker came to pay tribute to her brother Anthony who passed away in 2005 at age 45. She explained that it had become a tradition for her to attend the event. A number of family members and friends had joined her in her homage to Anthony. Minerva Velasquez came in memory of her sister Myriam who died of AIDS back in 1994, leaving two sons behind her. “It’s a celebration for me. We honor the good times spent together, especially the fun moments,” Velasquez said. “My sister was truly a very funny woman and I want her to be remembered that way. She never lost her humor until the very end.” Since its inception in 1986, the funds raised by AIDS Walk New York have benefited Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) – a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization that has been a leader in the fight against AIDS – and dozens of other tri-state HIV/AIDS service organizations. AIDS Walks allow service organizations to be accessible to anyone who is HIV positive, even people with little or no financial means, which helps local communities prevent the spread of the disease. Participants met at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday and braved the drizzle and wind in Central Park, right by the Sheep Meadow (south of 72nd Street) where the walk started. The opening ceremony featured actress and singer Hilary Duff, Carson Kressley (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”) and Brooke Smith (“Grey’s Anotomy”). In addition, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus – who greeted attendees with a “Welcome ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between” – were there to interpret popular songs such as the famous “Dancing Queen” by the band ABBA, which did not fail to cheer up the crowd before the beginning of the 6.2-mile walk. Participants started walking through Central Park at 10 a.m. all the way up to 110th street – Cathedral Parkway – and down Riverside Drive before finishing up back in the park on 72nd street. Volunteers were cheering walkers and giving out free refreshments and snacks all along the way. The crowd was very diverse: young, old, gay, straight, black, Caucasian, Latino and the general atmosphere was very friendly.
Because of the struggling economy, estimates on funds raised by this year’s AIDS Walk New York were set very low … the $5.6 million was a number that far exceeded what organizers were hoping for. Said Dr. Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis: “Today’s powerful results show that tough times, indeed, will not break our stride.” Congrats, kudos and much thanks goes out to those folks who participated in yesterday’s AIDS Walk. Until a cure can be found, we must not slow our resolve to help raise funds and awareness to battle this deadly disease. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it … much love and respect goes out to the celebs who use their fame for great causes like this. It says a lot that folks would take time out of their bizzy schedules to participate in important events such as this. Please keep up the great work!!