See, I decided to enter this event on a whim, after hearing about it on the radio. And it was only after I had registered online and hit my contacts up for donations that I found out how much AFAN has done for my community.
It was late last Friday afternoon when I heard about the 20th Annual AFAN AIDS Walk happening on Sunday, so I had 2 days to drum up the minimum $35 in donations. After signing up as an individual walker on the AFAN website, I quickly worked my entire online social network (Twitter, Facebook, and email), shamelessly soliciting all of my contacts for donations.
Frankly, I fully expected to pay that minimum out of my own pocket. So imagine my surprise when my friends and family were generous enough (especially on such short notice) to pitch in a grand total of $235 dollars on my behalf through the AFAN website.
This is definitely yet another case of other people making me look good.
So, what is AFAN?
From their website:
Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) provides support and advocacy for adults & children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in southern Nevada. AFAN works to reduce HIV infection through prevention education to eliminate fear, prejudice and the stigma associated with the disease.Also from their website:
Founded in 1984, Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) is the oldest and largest AIDS service organization in the state of Nevada. Nearly two thousand men, women & children infected with HIV are registered as clients with our agency. AFAN provides direct client service programs, food programs, prevention and education programs, and community outreach. It is the mission of our client service programs to enhance the physical health and psychosocial wellness of the individuals we serve, while promoting their dignity and improving the quality of their lives.So, early this morning, Brother Juan & I headed downtown, parking in the cavernous World Market Center garage and heading to the AFAN AIDS Walk headquarters, where a collection of booths and a small stage were set up.
(the crowd mixes and gathers swag)
We hit the registration tables first, picking up our event swag at a nearby booth. This included the usual t-shirt and shopping bag. And other booths -- representing local organizations like Planned Parenthood and QVegas, as well as businesses like Whole Foods & Coffee Bean -- provided their own collections of knicknacks and snacks. There was even a makeshift petting zoo, as well as facepainting for the kids.
(I pose with some men who have lots of PRIDE)
We mingled for a while, and I couldn't help noticing all the dogs. If we had known how pet-friendly this event would be, we would have brought Buddy the Puggle with us. He would have especially enjoyed meeting the biggest -- and most mellow -- Great Dane I have ever seen. (His name was Savior.)
(some kids from Nellis AFB sung the National Anthem)
The pre-walk festivities soon got under way, with performances from some local groups, including a group of young singers from Nellis Air Force Base and the dancers from the Crazy Horse Paris show at the MGM Grand. Local newscaster Chris Saldana acted as emcee.
(Penn Jillette leads the way)
At 10:30, the crowd gathered behind Grand Marshals Penn & Teller to begin the walk. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, warm & clear with a slight breeze to keep everyone refreshed.
As we filed down Bonneville Avenue into the heart of downtown Las Vegas, we passed several stations where local bands serenaded the passing walkers, water was passed out, and the doggies got to cool themselves in little kiddie pools.
The best of these local bands was The Clydesdale, who were set up on the corner of Bonneville and Grand Central Parkway, regaling us with their signature brand of alt-country jamming. Another standout was the Smith & Wesson Blues Project, who projected a clean, clear blues vibe as the crowd sauntered past. I will have to make a point to check out both of these acts in their more native environments.
(The Smith & Wesson Blues Project jams on the corner of Bonneville & Main)
Other interesting stops along the way included DJ Ladyfingers (who was blasting an old Erasure hit that really brought me back), the Sin City Sisters (a charity group who danced and waved in bright costumes and even brighter makeup), The Duchy of Cithara (apparently a member of the Kingdom of Vega, a Renaissance re-enactment troupe that specializes in combat demonstrations), and a local high-school marching band, whose rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" brought back memories of my own time in the brass section.
Needless to say, the AFAN AIDS Walk brought together a diverse set of interests. And, as we all know, diversity is a strength -- even if it does lead to a fair amount of head-scratching.
(the home stretch!)
And so, after turning down 4th Street and looping back to Bonneville, we headed back to the World Market Center to cross the finish line. Of course, this wasn't a race. And the hundreds of people participating weren't competing with each other so much as communing on a nice day for a worthy cause.
And how has AFAN affected me personally? Well, it turns out that AFAN helped a close friend of mine when a relative of hers was dying of AIDS. This was something I learned about only after I had hit her up for a donation. This relative was someone I had known and remembered fondly, but I had not known about the help from AFAN. My friend gladly donated after sharing this story, and it made my walk so much more meaningful on a personal level.
So, I guess the upshot is that you can't know how close-knit your community is until you get involved in it. I plan on doing this again next year. Care to join me?
20th Annual AFAN AIDS Walk
April 25th, 2010
Downtown Las Vegas