The 15th annual First Frost AIDS Walk “Friends of Carmen” team’s theme of “United We Stand in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS” is a cause all participants, organizers and volunteers represent.
The team, led by Carmen A. Sweet, collected $13,249, but, collectively, all teams — individual participants, men, women, children, the young and the old — raised $42,470. Proceeds benefit ACR Health’s north country youth services, which are not financially supported by many grants. Emergency ACR Health client needs also benefit from the 5k run/walk.
Sunday’s cold weather didn’t stop runners and walkers from participating for the cause.
“It’s a huge representation of this community,” said Jacki C. Coe, ACR Health development associate. “Whether they’re an individual, team, someone younger or older — they walk. They realize it’s a huge issue. Know things like 78 percent of new chlamydia cases in Jefferson County are in people 24 years of age and younger. The same way you get those sexually transmitted diseases are the same way you get AIDS. Every single one of us is vulnerable to get HIV/AIDS if we’re not taking precautions.”
The annual run/walk has been a staple north country event for the nonprofit agency, but ACR Health has shifted its focus from just HIV/AIDS to case management services for Medicaid clients with at least two of the more than 200 eligible chronic conditions. Instead of looking at just one disease, the agency’s Health Home model looks at the person’s overall health.
That ties into another aspect of the run/walk, as for the third year, ACR Health has offered a Couch to 5k program in partnership with Page Fitness Athletic Club. Couch to 5k coach Priscilla Hargraves, who is a trainer at the athletic club, said 20 people not only completed the 5k, but began a journey to healthier lives.
“They did awesome,” she said. “They came such a long way. Everyone lost inches and got stronger.”
She waited at the finish line, blowing her whistle and ringing a cowbell, and handed each Couch to 5k participant a medal for completing the race. Fellow racers and spectators also waited along the finish line, encouraging everyone in their run/walk efforts.
After the 1 p.m. Saturday race, which involved a course throughout Thompson Park and the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park, an awards ceremony and lunch took place in the park pavilion. Awards included top youth team to Indian River High School, for having raised $3,764.08. Mr. Sweet received the top individual fundraiser award, for having raised $10,400. He has participated in the run/walk since its inception 15 years ago, and he and his team have helped raise more than $90,000 since.
More funds from the run/walk are expected to trickle in throughout the coming weeks.
For more information about ACR Health, visit www.acrhealth.org.
By Rebecca Madden, Times Staff Writer