Fighting AIDS at the Happiest Place on Earth
AIDS WALK ORANGE COUNTY is both a fundraiser and an opportunity to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and it is just around the corner. On Sunday, May 6, thousands of participants will gather together at Disneyland to raise money for HIV/AIDS services. The event is organized by AIDS Services Foundation Orange County, whose mission is to prevent the spread of HIV and improve the lives of the men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Orange County.
Participation couldn’t be easier. Simply visit their website ocasf.org and click on the AIDS Walk link at the bottom of the page. Participants can register individually, or form a team with their friends, family, or co-workers. The minimum registration fee is $50, which participants can pay out of their own pocket, or through fundraising efforts.
Marc Montminy, the foundation’s Director of Communications and Public Relations, says that the majority of participants are part of a team and he encourages participants to form them with their friends, family, and co-workers as a fun way to participate. "The majority of them are team members," he explains. "We have very few individual walkers." Forming a team gives participants the opportunity to show off their creativity by adopting a group theme or even costumes.
Of course, fundraising is what the whole event is about and while friends, family, and co-workers are the obvious people to hit-up for donations, Montminy suggests that people think outside the box and talk to their employers because many companies are willing to match funds raised by their employees. "Check into corporate matching gifts. I think that’s something that a lot of people overlook, but if their companies do matching, then that doubles their donation."
Social media is another fundraising tool that participants have had great success with. Partici- pants in the past have used Facebook to let their friends know that they are taking part and looking for sponsors. Then, when someone makes a dona- tion, they can be tagged in a thank you message so that it appears on their wall, which then lets all of their friends know about it, which can often lead to further donations from these friends of friends.
The AIDS Services Foundation has great expectations for this year’s event. In 2011, approximately 4,000 people participated in the walk and the organization’s goal this year is to increase that by 25 percent to have 5,000 people participate, with a similar increase in donations. "Last year we raised just over $615,000 and again we’re looking to raise $750,000 this year," says Montminy.
One of the distinguishing things about this event from others in Southern California, is that it takes place at Disneyland. The 5k route starts at the Mickey and Friends parking structure, proceeds along the tram route, and then continues through both the Disneyland and California Adventure parks.
There will be limited registration on the day of the event, so participants are encouraged to register online in advance at ocasf.org. People of all ages can participate and children under 3 years old do not have to pay, so bring the whole family. Opening ceremonies will take place at the Main St. hub inside the park and the walk starts at 7:00 a.m., people are encouraged to be there no later than 6:30 a.m. in order to give themselves time to get into the park.