AIDS Walk gets new venue for annual event

Big Bend Cares will host the 17th Annual AIDS Walk on Sunday at 3 p.m.

The AIDS Walk, which was traditionally held in downtown Tallahassee, will be held at Tom Brown Park on Easterwood Drive.

“We got too large for downtown without having the streets closed, so the event will be at Tom Brown Park, which is by the Federal Prison,” said Melissa Walton, director of development and support services for Big Bend Cares.

Walton said she hopes the new location will not cause the fundraiser to lose any volunteers.

“People get used to being in the same place,” she said. “I hope they come out and enjoy the new scenery.”

Walton said the organization is hoping for 1,200 attendees this year.

“In the past four or five years, we had 400 to 500 attendees,” Walton said. “But last year we had 700 people.”

Most of the participants are students in organizations at Florida State University and Florida A&M University. There were 30 to 40 groups that participated in the AIDS Walk last year.

Bridget Robinson, coordinator of Big Bend’s Youth Corps program, is in charge of getting more organizations to participate this year.

“My major thing is getting more people involved,” Robinson said. “I divided my interns among the three colleges and all of the high schools. We sent out packets to inform them about the AIDS Walk.”

The AIDS Walk, which is one of Big Bend Cares’ biggest fundraisers, was created to raise money that will provide assistance, support and education to those affected by HIV/AIDS in the Big Bend area.

“The money we raise will help provide victims with medication, rent, utilities and transportation to and from medical appointments,” said Nekki Smith, an intern at Big Bend Cares. “People should get involved because the more people we have, the more money we will raise.”

The money also helps with other programs that are provided by Big Bend Cares but not linked to federal funds.

“We hope to raise $30,000 this year to help with not only the victims, but also with our Youth Corps Program and our Holiday Angel Program,” Walton said.

The Youth Corps Program is a peer education program for young adults ages 13-24. The Holiday Angel Program helps provide gifts for the children of victims living with HIV/AIDS.

Big Bend Cares, which serves eight counties, is the only organization devoted solely to providing AIDS services to more than half of the 1,000 people infected with HIV or AIDS in the Big Bend area.

“This virus affects everyone,” Walton said. “There is no one that shouldn’t be showing support for this service. Everyone is affected by HIV/AIDS in one way or another, so I hope people come to the walk, get some exercise and enjoy the park.”

Registration begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Each participant is asked to pay a $10 registration fee to participate. To learn more about the AIDS Walk or Big Bend Cares, visit or call Melissa Walton at (850) 656-2437.