Several hundred participants and volunteers showed up this weekend at a Santa Barbara AIDS walk to support an ongoing local struggle against the disease.
The 14th annual Heart and Sole AIDS Walk took place on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Leadbetter Beach. The event, sponsored by the Pacific Pride Foundation – a local provider of social services for people affected with HIV/AIDS, started at 10:30 a.m. and lasted for approximately two hours.
Participants covered a distance of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) during the event; beginning at Leadbetter Beach, continuing along the coast on Cabrillo Boulevard and then returning to Leadbetter Beach to cross the finish line. Food and beverages were provided at two rest stations along the route, located at Shoreline Park and the East Beach Pavilion.
Rafael Cosio, director of education for the HIV/AIDS awareness program at the Pacific Pride Foundation, said that in the last 12 years the walk has raised between $64,000 and $150,000 each year, with a yearly turnout of about 500 to 1,000 people. Last year, the walk raised roughly $90,000, he said.
“Proceeds go to fund direct client service programs and fund education programs,” Cosio said. “All money raised stays in Santa Barbara.”
The amount of money raised at this year’s walk was not available at press time.
According to the Pacific Pride Foundation website, www.pacificpridefoundation.org, walk participants may form teams consisting of 10 members each. To qualify as a team, each group must raise at least $500.
Participants in the walk said that they had various reasons for being there, but most said they agreed that the AIDS epidemic is a significant problem facing Santa Barbara.
Susan Romero, owner of Pet Sitters of Santa Barbara and veteran walk participant, sponsored a team through her business, participated in the event for personal reasons.
“It’s a good cause,” Romero said. “I lost a friend to AIDS.”
Lynn Jacobs, a walk participant, said that while AIDS has not personally affected her through the loss of a friend or family member, she considered the event a worthy cause.
“I’m here with my church group, Trinity Episcopal Church,” Jacobs said. “I try to get involved in issues that are important to me.”
The Pacific Pride Foundation is a Santa Barbara County organization that was founded 30 years ago to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Ten years after its creation, the foundation broadened its services and began to help people dealing with HIV/AIDS.
The foundation created the AIDS Walk in 1992 in response to a growing HIV epidemic in the county, Cosio said.
According to the Pacific Pride Foundation’s website, more than 2,100 people in Santa Barbara County are currently living with HIV, and at least one-third of these people do not know they are infected.