Durham Region AIDS walk raises more than $20,000

Photo by William McGinn

DLP group members, model their event T-shirts during the 2017 AIDS walk.

More than $20,000 was raised in an annual walk organized by the AIDS Committee of Durham Region.

About 100 people of all ages took part in the event held Sept. 16 which started at Oshawa’s Memorial Park.

Activities took place at the park such as dancing, face painting and free lunch. This was the 19th walk the committee has organized.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or whether you’re dressed in orange or red, or you have a costume on today,” Oshawa mayor John Henry told the group before the walk started. “You’re here for the right reason. You’re building community.”

Since becoming mayor in October of 2010, Henry has not missed one year of this walk.

Henry was not the only high-ranking politician in Oshawa in attendance. Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, Whitby-Oshawa MPP Lorne Coe and Oshawa MPP Jennifer French were also on hand.

Other familiar faces included Adrian Betts, an HIV survivor and executive director of the AIDS committee. He has been working at the committee for 10 years and has been in the business of fighting the disease for almost 30.

He got hired by the AIDS Foundation in Toronto in 1989 and has worked for several AIDS organizations since.

When the AIDS committee of Durham Region opened in 1991, there were only two employees. When Betts came to Oshawa a decade ago, there were only four.

“We’ve evolved since then,” explained Michael Morgan, manager of operations for the AIDS committee. “We [now have] 14 people working for the agency. We have about 200 volunteers.”

According to Betts, the volunteers are very active.

“There are volunteers for the speaker’s bureau, volunteers who do driving, taking people for appointments, use phones, run the food bank. We couldn’t run without all these volunteers,” he said.

He also said the Durham Region committee is so successful, it has worldwide acclaim.

“Oshawa managed to create campaigns that are recognized globally,” he said.

One example of a successful campaign is the Cat and Rooster campaign, which had a brand of T-shirts, posters, stickers and educational pamphlets. The campaign was used to recognize safe sex by giving humorous slogans.

It was also erotic, with some of the materials saying “Cover Your” above a picture of a rooster and “Protect Your” above a cat.

There was controversy when the materials showed up at a high school in Ajax, but before then, they were displayed at public health agency and social services across Durham without backlash.

The campaign was also recognized by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

Carrie supported the committee, saying, “when you think about AIDS and outreach, here in Durham Region, we really are leaders in the country and around the world.”

While Betts has been in the industry for decades, there was also a new face leading the walk. Katie Namek, who has been working at the committee for three months, was the director this year.

She was pleased with how the walk turned out. When asked if the politicians were invited, she replied, “we organized [everyone who came], but we’re always happy when politicians come to support us because we couldn’t do our work without their support.”

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William juggles all sorts of skills and dreams in a panic to find what sticks: He's an author, movie and book reviewer, voice actor and YouTuber. He's also the journalist who retrieved Monster by Mistake, a 3D Canadian cartoon which went missing from the public for over 10 years. He is the author of the YA book The Blacktop Brothers and its four sequels, and has been reviewing movies and books weekly on his website, Weldon Witness, since 2014. His main hobbies are sleeping in, speeding through books, taking pride in every article, and entertainment journalism is his favourite