On a sunny yet frigid Saturday morning, students from the University and several other local schools rallied to raise money and awareness for the treatment of AIDS, participating in the first ever Student Global AIDS Walk. The 5K walk, held on the Midway Plaissance and organized mostly by students from the University, was part of a nationwide fundraiser.
Approximately 150 students from Loyola University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, the U of C, and several local high schools participated in the event, raising over $5,000. Over $40,000 was raised by the 10 different cities that participated in the walk.
The Student Global AIDS Walk was created by students from Stanford University who wanted to increase student activism in treating those with the HIV and AIDS. They first organized the walk as a part of the AIDS Treatment Access Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to involving college students in the fight against AIDS.
All the proceeds from the event go directly to HIV/AIDS clinics around the world through the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
In America, over 450,000 people have died of AIDS and over 810,000 have been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, an estimated 42 million are infected, and 3.1 million died from the syndrome in 2002.
The University?s chapter of the Student Global AIDS campaign, which is still bidding for status as a RSO, was the primary organizer of the Chicago event. The walk was also sponsored by Phoenix, the undergraduate biology organization.
Although it was the first year of the event, organizers say the walk was a sweeping success. ?We estimate that with the money we?ve raised today we can treat at least 8,000 people suffering from this virus,? said Jackie Suen, an organizer.
Before the walk started, excitement and enthusiasm from the crowd was palpable. ?I did the national AIDS walk in Philadelphia, and I was really excited to participate in one here,? said Lekesha Campbell, a student in the School of Social Services Administration.
Anticipation intensified as students arrived from across Chicago, picking up their free t-shirts, listening to music blaring from a stereo, and eating from a breakfast buffet provided by the Student Global AIDS Walk team.
Speaker Laura Jones, who works for Test Positive Aware Network in Chicago, opened the walk with a passionate speech about the importance of student participation in such events.
While the 5K walk proved to be less than challenging for most, students enjoyed beautiful weather and the social atmosphere as they walked around the Midway.
?After having done previous AIDS walks, we were interested in doing another one, and this one was very well publicized,? said Loyola University student Nicole Chiampos.
Overall, organizers were quite pleased with the turnout and the success of the event.
?I believe we had one of the highest turnouts of the 10 cities,? said Maureen West, an event organizer from Loyola University.