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Jerry Hicks

Taking Steps to Promote AIDS Walk

May 30, 1996|Jerry Hicks

It was 10 years ago that Carole Elliott's close friend and roommate, Robert Frazier, died of AIDS. She'd been living in a house in Huntington Beach with Frazier and two other gay men. "We were all just devastated," she recalls. One week he was found to have bronchitis, and two weeks later he was dead.

Soon after that Elliott ran into a friend, Elizabeth Dorn Parker, who was about to begin duties as the one-woman staff for a fledgling group called AIDS Walk Orange County. Elliott, saddened by her friend's death, wanted to join. She was appointed to the board in time for its first meeting.

"We didn't have enough money to pay Elizabeth," Elliott recalls. "If it hadn't been for her sticking with it during those months when we had no funds, I don't think we could have ever made it."

The first year the organizers got 2,400 people to walk in William R. Mason Regional Park in Irvine. Last year at UC Irvine, more than 10,000 showed up to support the cause. Over the years it has raised $2.25 million for AIDS-related agencies in the county.

Sunday, it will be time to walk again. AIDS Walk Orange County will hold its 10th-anniversary event, beginning and ending at UCI. The same as each year, Elliott will be on the scene about 5 a.m. to help set up. Sign-ups are at 8 a.m.; the 10-kilometer trek starts at 10. Again, 10,000 are expected.

Elliott, who served as secretary of the AIDS Walk board for eight years, is the only original member left. Many of the others have moved on to other community causes, or moved away. Three of them have died of AIDS. But Elliott, who teaches physical education at McFadden Elementary School in Santa Ana, says she's determined to stick with it as long as necessary. The walk has become so huge that she works on it year-round now.

"Most of the people who will be walking have either lost a son or a friend or a lover to AIDS, or know someone who has," she says. "It's something that touches the whole community."

Dorn Parker of Costa Mesa, the start-up specialist who has moved on to other work, well remembers the first walk in 1987: She was nine months' pregnant. She hopes to be on hand with her two children Sunday for the opening ceremonies, and they may all join in, on roller blades.

"I'm so proud I had a chance to be a part of this," she says. "Of course, when we started, we all hoped that we wouldn't need an AIDS Walk 10 years later."

The T-Count: Health officials urge you to take an HIV test if you believe there is any possibility that you've been exposed to the AIDS virus. If you already know you are HIV-positive, they urgently advise a T-cell screening. The virus destroys the system's T-4 helper cells, which fight infection.

Laguna Shanti in Laguna Beach is offering free T-cell testing this afternoon. Appointments are requested: (714) 494-1446. Says a spokeswoman for CSI Center for Special Immunology, which is volunteering to conduct the tests: "We hope it will help encourage those whose tests show low T-cells to go in for treatment that can help them."

Around the Town: Remember all those Tom Hanks fans showing up in downtown Orange last fall as the two-time Oscar winner worked on his next movie, "That Thing You Do"? The movie is about a 1964 rock band, and Hanks not only stars in it but makes his directing debut. Hanks talks about it in Time magazine this week: "In 1964, everybody still believed in the carousel of progress."

Hanks, wrapping up studio work on the movie this month, adds about directing: "As an actor, people bring you food any time you want it and you lollygag your way to work. Directing is the hardest work you could possibly imagine." When Time asked about an Orson Welles comparison, Hanks replied: "Actually, I'm the new Orson Bean." . . .

The latest issue of Newsweek has its Orange County connection too. It says 10-year-old Norwalk artist Alexandra Nechita's paintings "call to mind the work of Picasso and Klee." Nechita is the main speaker scheduled on June 10 at the county American Red Cross chapter's Clara Barton Spectrum Awards luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine. . . .

If you want to show off your western duds, the city of Irvine is offering up a country and western music show Saturday in Bommer Canyon. The concert doesn't start until 7 p.m., but the gates open at 2 for barbecue food, square dancing, clogging and contests such as "Best Dressed Cowboy and Cowgirl." There's also a mini cattle drive, where you can see cattle rounded up and branded (this one's a mock branding.)

The festival fee is $8.50 for adults, but organizers say all profits go toward supporting disabled homeless veterans. If you've never heard of Bommer Canyon, it's across Bonita Canyon Road from Turtle Rock Community Park.

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