CSUN students, staff among thousands who participated in AIDS Walk

Liana Hofer

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(Right to left) CSUN seniors Anabel Soto, 23, liberal studies / Chicano studies double major, and Saul Linares, 23, communications major, participated in the AIDS Walk Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Paul Kingsley / Photo Editor

Against a gray and misty backdrop, several CSUN groups cheerfully gathered Sunday morning to participate in the 26th annual Los Angeles AIDS Walk.

Despite the dismal weather, spirits were high in support of the cause, as nearly 275 CSUN students and staff joined a reported 30,000 supporters who showed up for the 10-kilometer walk in West Hollywood Park, said Justin Weiss, activities coordinator of volunteer program and services at the Matador Involvement Center.

CSUN club members, organizers, and representatives from the Greek societies all met at the G3 parking lot on campus before the sun was up, sipping coffee and grabbing some of the free food that was provided.  Tubes of toothpaste were brought by everyone to donate to those with AIDS.

Senior Eric Lara, from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), was among the students who expressed support of the fight against AIDS. He said taking part in the walk was his way of giving back to the community.

“EOP helped us and has represented the underprivileged with low resources and because of that, I think it’s important that now we help others, in ways big or small,” said Lara, 28,  sociology major.  “Even though they don’t have the same needs we do, why not help them?”

Junior Aileen Conway, 29,  went with the organization “Unified We Serve,” a volunteer program on campus that aims to serve the community and its needs.

“I thought it was a good thing to participate in,” said Conway, a sociology major.  “It’s a way to support people that have it, and to bring awareness to the issue.”

Four buses showed up to campus around 7:30 a.m. to transport students down to the park.

Weiss  said buses were not paid for with student fees. In the past government officials funded them, but this year they had to use money from the Volunteer Program Budget, which comes from the State Lottery Funds.

Many participated in the walk for the first time this year, but those who had participated before were prepared. Wearing tennis shoes, hats, and carrying empty backpacks to collect the food provided on the walk.

For senior deaf studies major Carrie Richards, this was her second time participating in the event.  Richards, 21, said she enjoyed it so much last time that she brought along some friends for the event.

“Last time, it was really nice,” said Richards, a resident advisor in the dorms. “So this year, I dragged my boyfriend and two of my residents with me.”

She also said celebrities showed up  the last time she was at the event, and she even received a call from Drew Carey, thanking her for her support.

Carey and other big-name personalities were out again this year to participate in the opening ceremony. Among those who spoke were the mayors of Los Angeles and West Hollywood, actress Sara Ramirez, and comedian Hal Sparks.

“At a time when some would stigmatize those with AIDS(…)it’s great to see people walk for love and support,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to a cheering crowd.

After the ceremony, the walk began at 10 a.m. and the enthusiastic mass of supporters made their way down the streets of West Hollywood. Throughout the 6.2 miles of the walk, the streets were lined with a mix of cheerleaders, flamboyant men in drag, and religious protesters.

Mark G. Dalmacio, an AIDS Walk team leader for the Sig Ep fraternity, organized a group of 50 to 60 students for the walk. In lieu of traveling on the buses, the fraternity brothers carpooled to West Hollywood together.

Senior Dalmacio, 22, said a big part of the fraternity’s philanthropy is based around fighting AIDS in third-world countries.

“It tends to be a little touchy of a subject,” said Dalmacio, film production major. “We can’t take it as a joke, because it’s very serious.”