Ahead of the 25th annual AIDS Walk Washington, taking place Saturday, Oct. 29, Whitman-Walker Health has announced three grand marshals for the fundraiser benefiting WWH and ''community partner'' affiliates. The three, Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Joseph Anthony Izzo and Maudie Jones, all have histories with the walk that go back to its 1987 launch.
''AIDS Walks were happening in New York and Los Angeles, principally,'' recalls Graham, who headed the organization as Whitman-Walker Clinic from 1984 to 1999 and under whose direction AIDS Walk Washington began, initially as a co-sponsorship with the Human Rights Campaign Fund (now Human Rights Campaign). ''Obviously, we were very anxious to improve our fundraising situation. And it was great in terms of visibility. It was an opportunity to call public attention to the epidemic. It worked extremely well.''
Jones, a retired Army nurse, helped care for AIDS patients in the 1980s, and brought her two children to walk with her in 1987. Izzo, a Whitman-Walker psychotherapist, has worked there through the entire history of the walk, not missing a single one, which he does in part to honor his partner, a decades-long survivor of HIV/AIDS, and for the many patients and clients he's lost to the disease. He's also hoping his high-profile spot this year may help him bring attention to a sentimental effort of his: finding AIDS Walk Washington T-shirts from 1988, 1991 and 1994 to 1998. He's already offered the remaining shirts to a close friend who is a master quilter with plans of incorporating all 25 shirts into a quilt to memorialize the walk.
WWH's announcement of the grand marshals included comment from the group's executive director, Don Blanchon.
''These three grand marshals, symbolizing three decades of the epidemic, were not only there at the start; they've seen firsthand the progress we have made in 25 years,'' he said, in part. ''We hope that their stories of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds to reach a brighter future will inspire people today to continue to work toward a day when this walk will no longer necessary.''
Chip Lewis, WWH deputy director of communication, says AIDS Walk Washington is his organization's largest one-day fundraising effort. WWH has set a goal this year of raising $1 million.
To register for AIDS Walk Washington or the affiliated 5k run, call 202-332-WALK or visit aidswalkwashington.org.