Some changes coming to AIDS Walk SF

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday June 28, 2023
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Walkers start the 6.2-mile route of the San Francisco AIDS Walk in Golden Gate Park on July 14, 2019. Photo: Rick Gerharter<br><br>
Walkers start the 6.2-mile route of the San Francisco AIDS Walk in Golden Gate Park on July 14, 2019. Photo: Rick Gerharter

AIDS Walk San Francisco will take place next month, and event organizers are getting the word out about some changes to the event that raises funds for HIV/AIDS nonprofits.

The biggest change is that the walk, scheduled for Sunday, July 16, at Robin Williams Meadow in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, will only be a 5K trek. In previous years it had been a 10K walk, said Bert Champagne, event director.

He said that for many people the route was too long. The walk will begin and end at the meadow. Champagne, a gay man, said many people wanted a shorter walk.

Champagne told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview that the event is being brought in-house this year. No longer owned by MZA, which originated the walk decades ago in 1987, AIDS Walk SF is now run by an eponymous foundation. Champagne used to work for MZA and said that he told organizers that if brought in-house, he would stay on.

MZA was paid a "small fee" to retain the rights to the AIDS Walk SF name, Champagne said, adding he was not at liberty to disclose the amount.

"It's still in Golden Gate Park, there will be a big tent and a pancake breakfast," he said, adding there will be an opening ceremony as well.

At the time the B.A.R. spoke with Champagne, post-walk entertainment was still being worked out.

As with previous walks, there is no registration fee and people can sign up the morning of the event if they want to. But what has become popular in recent years is people walking as team members of a nonprofit or company. The HIV/AIDS nonprofits that are co-beneficiary partners keep 80% of what they raise, Champagne said. This year, there are 15 of those co-beneficiary partners.

One of those co-beneficiaries is the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. Outgoing Executive Director Bill Hirsh stated in an email to supporters that the nonprofit has its Legal Eagles Team.

"Every AIDS Walk is a momentous event, but this year's walk has an especially personal significance for me, as it will be the last time I participate as the executive director of ALRP," he stated, having recently announced that he will step down from the position at the end of the year.

"Today, most of ALRP's clients are living and aging with HIV rather than dying from AIDS, but the need for caring and zealous legal advocacy is as great as ever," Hirsh added. "I am, as always, deeply appreciative of your generous support over the years, and I hope that you will join me in supporting ALRP's essential legal services for people living with HIV/AIDS once again this year."

Other co-beneficiaries are the National AIDS Memorial Grove, the Spahr Center in Marin County, the LGBT Asylum Project, Ward 86 pop-up at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, La Clínica, Quan Yin Healing Arts Center, Maitri Compassionate Care, the Rainbow Community Center in Concord, Huckleberry Youth Programs, UCSF 360 Wellness Center, Hive, the Castro Country Club, West County Health Centers in Contra Costa County, and Face 2 Face in Sonoma County.

Champagne, who's been with AIDS Walk for 30 years, started out as a receptionist. He said that by staying in Los Angeles, the organization "saved an enormous amount of overhead" as opposed to opening an office in San Francisco.

This year, about 2,500 walkers are expected, he said.

"People can raise or donate what they want," he noted, adding that people can raise $150 for a T-shirt.

So far, according to the website, nearly $670,000 has been raised.

Champagne said that Gilead Sciences is the presenting sponsor and that ABC7-TV's Dan Ashley will once again be on hand to encourage walkers. The walk will be shown on ABC-7's digital channel.

The pancake breakfast, open to all fundraising participants, starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by pre-walk festivities at 10 and the walk at 10:30. There will be a community dance party from noon to 3 p.m.

For more information or to sign up, go to

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