Since 1985, San Francisco-based Project Inform has worked to support people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. For each of the past 28 years, tens of thousands of supporters have put on their walking shoes for AIDS Walk San Francisco. The 10K through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park supports Project Inform and dozens of other Bay-area AIDS service organizations.
J. Kelly Ward has been involved with AIDS Walk San Francisco for 18 years as a volunteer organizer for the Wells Fargo team. He was inspired to join the cause after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1982.
The walk has raised more than $82 million since its inception, and it funds direct HIV/AIDS services, research, treatment, and education.
Kelly says when he first joined the Wells Fargo team he and a friend decided they wanted to help it grow.
What started as a team of about 30 in 1996 is now up to 225 walkers this year, with $20,291 raised in the September event, earning the team the designation of a “Gold Team” (one of the top-20 fundraisers out of 600 teams). Kelly and a team of three other captains start working about a year in advance to prepare for the walk, including raising money, organizing food and other logistics, and recruiting walkers.
Says AIDS Walk San Francisco event Director Demetri Rizos: “Team Wells Fargo attracted hundreds of team members walking side by side, cheering, and being cheered. The funds donated through Wells Fargo’s sponsorship of the event and by team members make it possible for Project Inform to provide more money to more HIV/AIDS organizations than ever before.”
Wells Fargo was a Principal Sponsor of the 2014 walk.
For Brian McGuire, this marked his first AIDS Walk San Francisco, which he walked in honor of his partner, Jeff G. Cottrell, who died from AIDS 20 years ago.
Brian was the top fundraiser from the Wells Fargo team this year, with $5,125 raised.
“My fundraising efforts far exceeded my expectations,” Brian says. “I was very happy to give back, as the funds raised benefit many of the organizations Jeff used during his battle with AIDS. I felt Jeff and all my friends were with me in spirit.”
Kelly says one of his favorite parts of the event is seeing 20,000 people gathered in San Francisco Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow at the beginning of the walk, for a cause that is so important to him.
“It is really cool to see that they are there for the same reason I am,” says Kelly. “You see that there are still a lot of good, caring people in the world. A lot of people don’t think about HIV, but I think about it every day. It renews my hope in mankind.”