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AIDS Walk Breaks Records

The 6.2-mile event in West Hollywood draws the most money and biggest turnout ever.

October 16, 2006|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

A record 30,000 participants turned out Sunday for the 10th annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles, raising a record $3.8 million, organizers said.

"We are thrilled," said Craig Miller, who founded the event in 1985. "We are going to be able to help a lot of people with this money."

Sunday's 6.2-mile walk through the streets of West Hollywood bettered last year's turnout by about 4,000 and garnered about $400,000 more than the previous record, set in 1996.

"Americans are waking up to the scope and depth of this epidemic," said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, which benefits from the walk.

He attributed the turnout to an aggressive outreach by AIDS educators to Southern California's youngsters. Also, the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus and a recent international conference generated publicity for the cause.

"We've been successful in educating and committing a new generation of activists," Thompson said, estimating that about 25% of Sunday's walkers were first-time participants. "I'm always encouraged by this event, but particularly today; all these teenagers and families with young children. It's such a big crowd, such a young crowd and such a diverse crowd -- it's everything we hoped for."

Indeed, among the participants were students wearing the colors and insignias of their campus clubs.

Haerin Kim, a 16-year-old student at Hollywood High, said she'd come representing the school's Key Club, a teen service organization sponsored by Kiwanis. "It was really fun hanging out with friends, walking and getting all the free food," she said, referring to the seemingly endless supply of iced tea, Cheetos and Frappucino bars passed out by volunteers. "It was very tiring, but I think it's a good thing we did."

Marie Berrera, an 18-year-old freshman at Loyola Marymount University, said she came with a local Filipino students association.

And Jyra Bunggo, 16, of Glendale said she'd heard about the AIDS Walk at school. "People should know about AIDS," she said. "It's a disease that's causing lots of people to die."

Ismael Hono, 45, of Victorville said he'd been HIV positive since 1990 and developed full-blown AIDS in 1994. "I've been living with it for a long time," he said, adding that, after recently doing an AIDS walk in Riverside, he decided to do the "big one" in Los Angeles.

There were also plenty of veteran participants in the crowd.

Victor Sampson, 66, of Porter Ranch said he was walking for the fifth straight year.

"You've got to give back to the community," he said. Even in the relative coolness of an overcast day, though, Sampson admitted having his troubles. "At my age," he said, "the last mile's a killer The older you get, the harder it is."

And Jason Nunes, 27, from the Bay Area, may have been among those who traveled farthest for the walk. "Every year I make a vacation out of it," he said. "I take in some TV shows and have a good time."

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david.haldane@latimes.com

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