Over 500 people took a stroll on the beach this Saturday morning for the 16th Annual Heart & Sole AIDS Walk, raising more than $100,000, and a few smiles.
Participants began the 10-kilometer walk at Leadbetter Beach and finished the celebration with live music and visits to 12 sponsored tents that offered information on issues such as rape, pregnancy and sexual health. Some walkers even donned the message of safe sex by wearing condom costumes with the words “Use Me” printed on the back.
John Bowlin, co-coordinator of the fundraiser, said Saturday’s walk, sponsored by the Pacific Pride Foundation, boasted the largest attendance turnout in the event’s history.
“We raised $125,000 and all that money will stay in Santa Barbara County for HIV/AIDS services,” Bowlin said. “We had about 1,000 people; walkers, volunteers and staff.”
Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum attended the start of the walk and said she was impressed by the turnout, especially with the amount of young people participating.
“Young people know there are problems in the world and instead of giving up, they should pick a passion and work for that because you can make a difference,” Blum said. “One, two, three students can make a difference and you can learn a lot.”
Bowlin said this is his first year co-coordinating the walk, but he plans to continue working for the fundraising event.
“This year we offered a lot more of the nonprofit sponsors,” Bowlin said. “Every year the walk grows more.”
Among the tents at the event was one for the Pacific Pride Foundation, which offered sex education goodies such as colorful, flavorful condoms and lube, as well as informational pamphlets. Ramone Velazquez, a volunteer at the sex education tent, said the tent travels to various events in Santa Barbara, like the Sexual Awareness Week at UCSB.
“People are kind of scared of the subject matter, but we would like to be invited to more events,” Velazquez said.
Meanwhile, the Gelson’s food tent gave out free pastries, power bars, fruit and drinks to walkers. Anita Diaz worked the food tent and said any leftovers of food, all of which was donated, will in turn be donated so nothing is wasted.
“We have so many givers; Gelson’s was the number one, and it is thousands of dollars worth of stuff,” Diaz said. “We’re feeding 500 people.”
Helping to represent UCSB was Amber Bharoocha, a fourth-year sociology major and sex and relationship intern for Sociology 152A. She said 14 interns volunteered to work the class booth and walk. She said the group raised over $500.
Third-year film and music major Kathryn Buckles and fourth-year sociology and women’s studies major Amber Douglas said they spent Friday night collecting over $300 from Isla Vista residents for the event.
“We’re so fortunate here in Santa Barbara and we wanted to give back,” Douglas said.