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26,000 Take a Step Against AIDS

Health: Organizers of 13th annual walk say at least $3 million is raised for services and educational programs.

September 29, 1997|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A record crowd of more than 26,000 walkers converged Sunday on Hollywood for the 13th annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles, which officials said raised at least $3 million to fund AIDS services and educational programs.

Young and old, fit, flabby or somewhere in between, the walkers flooded Paramount Studios for an opening ceremony that featured celebrity guests.

The event's originator, Craig Miller, roused the walkers by reminding them that they were not only fund-raisers and volunteers, but also messengers spreading the word.

"We are here this morning because we know an epidemic is not over if we're still losing so many people," Miller said.

Moments later, the crowd began winding its way along a 10-kilometer course down some of Hollywood's most famous streets. They walked, jogged and skated beneath a scorching sun.

"I think there's a lot of prejudice against people with AIDS and people who live alternative lifestyles," said Moji Rooney, a college student and mother of four from Placentia. "We should lend a hand and show that we care. If we all do a little, together we can do a lot."

In addition to attracting more than 700 corporate teams, the event drew numerous elected officials, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Los Angeles City Councilmen Mike Feuer and Joel Wachs.

Among the participants were hundreds of students, faculty members and administrators from Cal State Northridge, which registered 1,252 walkers, campus team leader Amy Reichbach said. Campus organizers assembled the largest university team in the event's history last year, with 650 registered walkers.

When it began in 1985, AIDS Walk Los Angeles attracted 4,500 participants in the first such event in the country. Over the years, the walk has evolved into an annual event for thousands of people to unite in the fight against HIV or to remember a loved one who died of AIDS.

"I really wanted to support the fight against AIDS and to come out today in memory of my brother," Sara Chapin, 19, of Lancaster, said.

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