AIDS Walk Long Beach is back this year, but virtually, its host, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach announced. While organizers considered possible scenarios for putting on a socially distanced gathering, ultimately the safest decision was to have participants walk on their own time and in their own neighborhoods, Sunday, Nov. 15.
Still, participants can begin getting their teams together and fundraising set as early as… now. Albeit, not without indulging in a fond look-back as to how things were pre-pandemic.
Andrew Dorado, interim executive director of The Center, said it was just a couple years ago that he remembers a volunteer leading a morning stretch before the walk. That was one of his favorite parts of the fundraiser, stretching and exercising to music with the group beforehand and simply seeing “everybody come together” for the cause. Dorado said normally a few hundred people show up to support.
While this year’s fundraiser will look very different—with 5K routes available for walking and running at a safe distance—the funds raised by Sunday, Nov. 15 are even more imperative to The Center’s mission. Proceeds will go to The Center, as well as the AIDS Food Store, St. Mary’s CARE Program and the Bickerstaff Clinic at Long Beach Memorial.
“Agencies who care for people impacted by HIV are in desperate need of funds this year,” Dorado said in a statement. “COVID-19 increased calls for service from our clients while it hobbled our traditional fundraising efforts.”
When stay-at-home orders were first issued, The Center closed and staff began working remotely while services were moved online with all counseling, health and legal services and support groups held via video conferencing. More than 25,000 people use The Center’s programs every year. Now, it’s offering HIV and STI testing by appointment outside in an open environment behind The Center at 2017 E. Fourth St.
“We recognize that’s a valuable service that the community still needs, even in the middle of a pandemic,” said Dorado. “And we want to make sure that we have that available for them.”
Long Beach is historically one of the state’s most HIV-impacted cities and had 21 new cases per 100,000 residents in 2018, according to the city’s STD/HIV Surveillance report that year. Founded by The Center in the late 80s, the AIDS Walk has raised more than $2 million benefitting local nonprofits providing support for those impacted by the virus. This year, the goal is to raise $20,000.
Participants can start fundraising now individually or get together as a team. To register, and to start collecting donations electronically visit centerlb.org/AidsWalkLB. Those who raise $50 or more will receive an AIDS Walk Long Beach 2020 face mask, while all will receive a complimentary t-shirt, and runners, a medal.
Entrants are also encouraged to post screenshots of their routes and their experience walking and running (and social distancing), by tagging @CenterLB and #AIDSWalkLB2020 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“We’re definitely trying to make sure that we raise money to support the community, and really, just do some great work,” Dorado said.
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