Three hundred students and faculty members from CSUN marched Sunday morning in West Hollywood to benefit the AIDS Project Los Angeles.
The CSUN team, which is made up of students, faculty and staff members, has volunteered for the AIDS Walk since the early 90s. A variety of student organizations and faculty members find sponsors to donate money for the APJA each year.
Veronica Chavira, a 21-year-old senior Cinema and Television Arts major, was the co-leader this year for CSUN’s AIDS Walk team. She has volunteered her time every year for the AIDS Walk since she was 14 years old.
“I volunteered at the Inland AIDS project in Riverside,” Chavira said. “I was prompted to be involved when the AIDS quilt was brought to my high school.”
Last year her sorority, Lambda Sigma Gamma, sponsored her for $200 to do the walk.
“My goal this year is $300,” Chavira said. “So far I have been sponsored for $90 from friends and family.”
The total amount she, as well the CSUN team, will receive from the sponsors will be calculated by November by the APLA.
The APLA has set up an online donation site for the walkers. Friends, family and organizations can go online to set up a donation for whomever they want to sponsor.
The journey was a 6.2-mile walk though West Hollywood. The CSUN team met at 8 a.m. in Lot G4, where eight buses drove them to the starting point at the Pacific Design Center on Melrose Avenue.
“The CSUN team was very enthusiastic this year and was shouting, ‘CSUN,'” Chavira said. “We had about 15-20 student organizations, including the Filipino American Student Association and the Alpha Sigma Theta hard-of-hearing sorority.”
The CSUN team has been a Gold team member of the APLA for the past five years, Chavira said. To be a Gold team, a team must be among the top 20 fundraisers for the entire walk.
“Last year we raised $12,134 that put us in the No. 18 spot,” Chavira said. “Our goal this year will be $15,000.”
Chavira said that CSUN is the only Southern California University to do the AIDS Walk.
Among those who do the AIDS walk, there are some that are called “Star Walkers.” Star Walkers are those who raise $1,000 or more.
Amy Reichbach, a CSUN health educator at the Klotz Student Health Center, has been able to obtain the official “Star Walker” title over the past 19 years.
“I started the AIDS walk the first year my daughter was born,” Reichbach said. “My daughter has also done 19 AIDS walks with me.”
Reichbach said she became involved with the AIDS Walk because AIDS was seen as a “gay” disease and she wanted to show that straight people cared too.
The highest amount Reichbach was sponsored for was $1,700. She said it has been more difficult to raise more money because those who once sponsored her are now looking for their own sponsors for when they participate in the walk.
“This year I hope to hit $1,000,” Reichbach said. “I do have people sponsoring me this year but some of my sponsors have joined in the walk.”
Reichbach led the CSUN team for 10 years through the Student Health Center.
In 1987, when Reichbach began participating in the AIDS Walk, she knew one person who died of AIDS-related illness. She then had another friend die because of AIDS.
“One of my friends was a lab tech,” Reichbach said. “He got infected with HIV from an occupational lab stick.”
The organizing of the CSUN team switched two years ago from the Student Health Center to the Matador Involvement Center.
Beatriz Trejo, MIC activities assistant, was the team leader this year.
For those who have trouble finding sponsors, the APLA’s website helps to connect sponsors to walkers.
“A lot of people don’t know how to (raise funds),” Trejo said. “The APLA helps to find the funds.”
The APLA online site is www.aidswalk.net/losangeles.
Michael Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.