It’s taken me a good ten days and a lot of miles, but finally, I’ve reached my destination on this trip: AIDS Walk New York! I got invited to participate in this largest of single-day AIDS fundraising events by my friend, Malcolm, who you may remember from a trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, because his friend from high school has been struggling with HIV for a long while now. How could I turn that down?! It was time to help the helpers!
This was my first active fundraising effort for a good cause, and I was super happy to be participating! I set up a profile on the Team Gigglefest page, told all my friends on social media that I was raising funds, and you know what? I raised $50! Special thanks to my friends, Kyle and Adrian, for their donations!
The event got started at the southeast corner of the famous Central Park, where celebrities and dignitaries alike talked about the importance of this day. It’s been an annual tradition for 31 years and has brought out the better part of a million people to pound the Manhattan pavement! Over $144 million has been raised to fight AIDS thanks to this event!
After a mighty performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” sung by Broadway powerhouse, LaChanze, the start line opened up, and the 30,000+ walkers started filing through!
Malcolm, Raven, Jessica, Adam, and I walked up East Drive, past the famous Bethesda Fountain and Loeb Boathouse, past the many amazing museums lining the park that I’ll have to come back and visit some day. Along the way, Malcolm picked up a sign that read something much like “Salty Birches,” and that became our team’s name for the rest of the day!
The further north we walked, the shorter were the buildings lining the park! By now, the sky, which had been teasing warm sunlight, had turned gray and ominous! I don’t think any of us packed rain gear, so we were pretty nervous, being only a third of the way done with the six-mile walk! We got some donuts to give us fuel then turned west down 110th Street!
By the time we reached Morningside Drive, the rain started to fall! It was a light drizzle, but it was COLD! We had to huddle in a corner so that Raven could change out of her shorts and put on pants in the closest thing to privacy we could get on a New York Street! The quick change was a success, and we marched on, ever so slightly warmer, to the river!
The rain lit up on Riverside Drive as we fell in step with a group of folks singing Southern style hymns. It was a nice change to see religious folks participating in the parade, rather than protesting it, and I thought it was pretty darn moving! We Salty Birches kept our energy up, and somehow, Malcolm was able to hold the sign up high the whole time, to popular acclaim! By the time we turned on 85th Street back toward the park, we still weren’t sure who the original Salty Birches were, or why they had left their sign on the road!
After a solid two and a half hours of walking, we reached the finish line! We had completed our AIDS Walk after a sunny start, a gloomy middle, and a patchy end. I thought it was a good metaphor for life! Life can get cloudy and cold in the middle, but with enough determination, it just might clear up before the end! To commemorate the occasion, the volunteers handed out Certificates of Completion. I was super proud to get mine. I think I might come back next year, or try another walk in one of the many other cities, even Los Angeles. Maybe I’ll raise $100 next time! It’s a great cause that I hope will help a lot of folks who need it!
Here, the Salty Birches parted ways for now, they to head back to New Jersey and I to wait for my flight at 4:00. That gave me a few more hours to explore. You’ll be able to read more about what I saw in the next few posts!
So long, Big Apple!