Last week’s 28th annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles saw a massive turnout, with 30,000 participants filling the streets of West Hollywood and Los Angeles.
Celebrity supporters, elected officials, and notable AIDS activists addressed the crowd assembled in and around West Hollywood Park before the walkers set out on the route.The event also achieved strong fundraising results, which benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and 29 other important L.A. County AIDS service organizations. These groups provide urgently needed care to thousands of people living with HIV, as well as vital prevention work that reaches many more throughout the Southland.
“The 30,000 participants who took to the streets today can take pride in the incredible $2,912,209 raised to fight AIDS and lift up the lives of those affected by HIV,” said Craig R. Miller, Founder and Producer of the event. “Thanks to the thousands of dedicated people who walk and fundraise each year, we have made tremendous progress and we are facing a better day in the fight against AIDS,” Miller says. “But we have to remain strong in our response. We have to remain vigilant. And most of all we have to remain visible.”
Since its inception, AWLA has raised more than $75 million for APLA and a host of other HIV/AIDS service organizations throughout Los Angeles County.
“As we mark the 31styear of the epidemic in the United States, AIDS Walk Los Angeles remains a critical – and, in fact, the single largest – source of private support for those who rely on APLA’s services,” said Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director of AIDS Project Los Angeles. “With their incredible fundraising, AIDS Walk Los Angeles participants are changing lives, powering prevention efforts, and supporting advocacy work to defend the civil rights of all who live with this still-deadly disease.”
The event’s visibility was compromised this year when AIDS Walk Los Angeles’ fully paid ads were banned by the City of Santa Monica’s transit line, Big Blue Bus, along with all other advertisements and public service messages from charities. Only “commercial” advertising is allowed under the new policy. For the past six years, these advertisements have been a mainstay of the event’s organizing campaign. According to City officials, the ads generated no complaints.
AIDS Walk Los Angeles Founder and Producer Craig Miller blasted the ban by Santa Monica City Hall as both injurious to the fight against AIDS and an assault on Free Speech. “These bus ads are a key element in raising funds and awareness for AIDS Walk Los Angeles,” said Miller. “This censorship can only reduce our capacity to fight the epidemic, and will greatly disadvantage all community-driven organizations once served by Big Blue Bus.”
AIDS Walk Los Angeles organizers were joined by APLA representatives at a recent Santa Monica City Council meeting to protest the ban.
The AIDS Walk Los Angeles Opening Ceremony featured Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Abbe Land, who spoke about the current HIV/AIDS crisis in Los Angeles and West Hollywood and about the importance of the community’s response.
Other elected officials and special guests in attendance included: United States Representatives Howard Berman, Adam Schiff, and Maxine Waters; California State Senators Curren D. Price and Rod Wright; California State Assembly members Betsy Butler,Isadore Hall,and Ricardo Lara; Los Angeles City Council members Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Jan Perry, and Dennis P. Zine; Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich; Los Angeles City AIDS Coordinator Ricky Rosales; Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy; and West Hollywood City Council members John J. Duran and John Heilman.
Celebrities and notable figures at the event included Christa B. Allen (“Revenge”), Leslie Bibb (“GCB,” “Popular”), Sophia Bush (“Partners”), Drew Carey (“The Price is Right” Host), Barrett Foa (“NCIS: Los Angeles”), Daisy Fuentes (Television Host), Christopher Gorham (“Covert Affairs,” “Popular”), Dot Marie Jones (“Glee”), Pauley Perrette (“NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigation Service”), Andrew Rannells (“The New Normal,” “Girls”), Jai Rodriguez (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”), Michael Urie (“Partners”), BeBe Wood (“The New Normal”), the cast of MTV’s “Awkward” including Jillian Rose Reed, Nikki Deloach, Jessica Lu, Molly Tarlov, plus a special reunion with cast members from the critically acclaimed TV show “Popular” including, along with Bibb and Gorham, Bryce Johnson, Tamara Mello, and Carly Pope. Norm Lewis (“Scandal”) closed the Opening Ceremony with his performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
The corporate community continued to show its strong support for the event through team fundraising and corporate sponsorship. This year’s Presenting Sponsor was AHF Pharmacy. This year’s Grand Sponsors included ABC7, The David Geffen Foundation, Paramount Pictures, Paul Hastings, Time Warner Cable, and Toyota. Principal Sponsors included Albertsons, Delta Air Lines, Macy’s, Marilyn & Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Vons/Pavilions.
For more information, please visit aidswalk.net/losangeles. To connect with the online community on Facebook, simply join the “AIDS Walk Los Angeles Facebook Fan Page.” To view exclusive video content, visit the AIDS Walk Los Angeles YouTube channel at youtube.com/aidswalkla. To receive instant updates, follow “@AIDSWalkLA” on Twitter.