AIDS Walk San Diego 2008
An amazing history; life-changing success
Published Thursday, 25-Sep-2008 in issue 1083
The staff and volunteers begin their work in the dark. Toiling with artificial light and through the bleary eyes of the sleepless, they alter the landscape of Balboa Park to prepare for an event that will change lives. In some cases they’ll be impacting the lives of people they know and love, and in others, they give of themselves for people they’ll never meet.
They begin in the dark, but soon – literally and figuratively – the light comes. As the sun rises, hundreds and hundreds of other AIDS Walk volunteers, walkers and runners will join them for a day that truly exemplifies the spirit of community and generosity.
On Sunday, Sept. 28, the 19th annual AIDS Walk San Diego will step off in Balboa Park. There will be teams from local schools, small businesses and large corporations, churches and families with members spanning generations. This wasn’t always the case. While AIDS Walk today brings together a large and diverse group of San Diegans committed to doing something about the AIDS pandemic, the first few years reflected the times, where fear and discrimination surrounded the diseases and those impacted by it.
AIDS Walk San Diego began in 1989; two years before, the event took place under the name “Walk for Life.” During those years, the stigma associated with the disease was so great it couldn’t even be included as part of the event’s name. Throughout the years, courageous and dedicated walkers stayed the course.
Today, AIDS Walk San Diego is the largest one-day HIV/AIDS fund-raiser and the largest non-governmental financial provider for HIV/AIDS service organizations in the San Diego region. Approximately 30 local organizations – who serve thousands of clients – rely on funds raised at AIDS Walk to help provide the essential prevention programs and direct services to thousands of men, women and children in the San Diego area.
Unlike other cities, where some AIDS Walk events no longer raise the level of money they once did, or have completely ceased to exist, the San Diego community is fortunate to have a unique – and effective – funding partnership with the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative. This partnership enables AIDS Walk San Diego to increase the impact of the dollars its raises, as they are combined with donations from other philanthropists and foundations to quality for matching funds and grants.
Since 1989, AIDS Walk San Diego has raised more than $7 million. In partnership with the Funding Collaborative, last year nearly 30 community-based organizations received more than $480,000.
Each year, there are thousands of San Diegans who participate in this event, as walkers, runners, volunteers or contributors. They are involved for various reasons, but most prominently, to remember those we’ve lost, and to show those living with HV/AIDS that they care. Each year, people leave the grounds of AIDS Walk feeling like they’ve made a difference.
Because they have.
Because each year since its inception, AIDS Walk participants have generated much-needed resources and sent a powerful message about the scope and seriousness of this disease. And, they’ve helped support some of the most vital organizations in our community, including three we’ve spotlighted here.
Mama’s Kitchen
AIDS Walk San Diego has been one of Mama’s Kitchen’s most faithful supporters for 15 years, receiving more than $150,000 in AIDS Walk grants since 1993. Funds from AIDS Walk San Diego have helped supply food for the Mama’s Kitchen Home Delivered Meals program for clients affected by HIV/AIDS.
“Our Home Delivered Meals Program is our signature service that has supplied millions of meals for local residents in crisis due to HIV/AIDS,” said Alberto Cortés, executive director of Mama’s Kitchen. “Without this vital program, many of these men, women and children would have suffered from hunger and malnutrition, and some would have died prematurely.”
Mama’s Kitchen is still the only local meal-delivery service for people with AIDS that supplies three meals a day for every day of the year. The assistance Mama’s Kitchen receives from AIDS Walk San Diego through the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative is a critical ingredient in the recipe for its success.
And Mama’s Kitchen gives back to AIDS Walk.
“Mama’s Kitchen has participated in AIDS Walk since its inception in San Diego,” said Bill Patten, client and volunteer services director. “Our volunteers and staff look forward to the walk each year, not only for the financial benefit to the community, but for the camaraderie and opportunity to support other organizations.”
CASA South Bay
CASA (Coordinated Assistance Services and Advocacy) South Bay is a program of the San Ysidro Health Center (SYHC). Its mission is to offer – in partnership with other HIV/AIDS service providers – a total continuum of care and supportive services. To that end, CASA is a one-stop coordinated services center dedicated to people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. CASA offers a warm, supportive, home-like setting to encourage social interaction and the development of peer-based support networks.
“CASA offers an array of culturally and linguistically appropriate medical and social support services to our clients and their family members in a warm, friendly and caring environment,” said Monica Leon, HIV Services Manager for the San Ysidro Health Center.
CASA South Bay provides and coordinates the delivery of more than 15 social support services, including case management, outreach, HIV testing, peer advocacy, mental health counseling, legal services, substance abuse counseling, housing information, babysitting and transportation assistance, as well as a variety of groups including prevention with positives, art therapy groups and Spanish support group.
CASA South Bay also coordinates access to SYHC’s HIV primary medical care, dental services, outreach and free HIV counseling and testing, nutrition counseling and treatment adherence counseling. CASA South Bay has a well established and very active peer support program, Amigos de CASA, which is funded with donations received from AIDS Walk and plays a vital role in the care and support of its clients.
“Each month, CASA has over 600 visits to access information, medical and social services and enrolls eight to nine newly-diagnosed HIV-positive clients per month. This level of service and support would not be possible without the support that the San Ysidro Health Center’s CASA South Bay program receives from AIDS Walk San Diego,” Leon said.
Since 1999, the San Ysidro Health Center (SYHC) and its CASA South Bay program have received more than $116,000 from AIDS Walk San Diego.
“Funding from AIDS Walk San Diego and the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative has enabled us to develop creative, innovative and responsive programs that have helped to improve the health, well-being and overall the quality of life for the clients we serve in South Bay,” Leon said.
Stepping Stone
For more than 20 years, Stepping Stone has provided specialized professional treatment and recovery services to individuals who have not been well-served by traditional health care, social service and recovery programs. Funding from AIDS Walk has helped continue to make those services possible.
“About 30 percent of Stepping Stone’s clients in our 31-bed long-term residential facility are HIV-positive or individuals with an AIDS diagnosis who do not have the resources to access mainstream health services,” said John de Miranda, chief executive officer of Stepping Stone. “AIDS Walk San Diego funds have always provided that financial cushion that we need in order to provide care for those who truly need these services.”
After two decades of service, Stepping Stone of San Diego remains committed to creating, improving and delivering alcohol and other drug treatment; HIV and other health interventions; and recovery, education and prevention services specially tailored to the GLBT community in San Diego. The continuum of care is based on the 12-step social model.
Financial support of more than $70,000 from AIDS Walk has helped Stepping Stone strengthen its organization, provide direct services and improve outreach efforts throughout San Diego County.
“This support is so important because these funds represent the broad grassroots support of the San Diego community for what we do,” de Miranda said.
Recognizing the importance of this event, not just to his organization, but to the entire community of HIV/AIDS service providers, de Miranda said Stepping Stone volunteers will again participate in AIDS Walk San Diego. Sign up today to register or volunteer, and become a part of the wonderful history of this incredible event. You can register online, sign up to volunteer and get more information at You can also call 619-291-WALK (9255) for additional information.

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