An estimated 30,000 people took to the streets of West Hollywood and Los Angeles on Sunday and raised just under $30 million for area AIDS services organizations.
At the event’s opening ceremony, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villariagosa reminded the crowd of the terrible toll AIDS has taken over the decades.
‘Sixty thousand people have been lost to AIDS in LA County. 60,000 people would fill up Dodgers Stadium,’ Villaraigosa said. ‘So today we walk, we walk for them. We walk for their families, we walk for the people who will be infected this year or the next. We walk for a cure.’
AIDS survivor Dwayne Carl shared with the crowd his harrowing story as a reminder of why they were all there.
‘I went from an executive career to a hospital bed,’ he said. ‘My family and friends abandoned me because they did not understand. My doctor said I would never see a paycheck again and once I was discharged from the hospital, it was me and my HIV alone in my apartment. My calendar went into the trash. What’s the use of one when there is no future to plan?’
But he found AIDS Project Los Angeles, the main beneficiary of the walk, and came back to life.
‘I had every resource I needed to stay on treatment and to get healthy. But most importantly, APLA allowed me to meet others like myself,’ Carl said. ‘People who are HIV positive can lead a healthy and productive life, people who, like me, have faced down death but now are healthier than ever. And by the way, I keep a calendar again now. A datebook is a big help when your future is filled with hope.’
Among the celebrities on hand to see the walkers off on their journey were Michael Urie, Pauley Perrette, Andrew Rannells, BeBe Wood, Drew Carey, Sophia Bush, Dot Marie Jones, Norm Lewis, Jai Rodriguez, Barrett Foa, Michele Lee, Christa B. Allen, and Daisy Fuentes.
‘I’ve been walking these walks since I was in high school so it’s great to come around full circle and to be a host up on stage and to look out at the crowd and to give back and help spread the word,’ Foa, a star of NCIS Los Angeles, told Gay Star News. ‘That’s really important.’
The cast of the cult TV fave Popular, created by Ryan Murphy a decade before Glee, reunited at the event to walk as a team. Christopher Gorham, Sara Rue, Leslie Bibb, Bryce Johnson, Carly Pope, Tamara Mello, and Tammy Lynn Michaels raised $31,000 for the cause.