CHICAGO — A model of commitment and determination, Mae Smith has not missed a single AIDS Run & Walk Chicago since her son, Ron, died of AIDS 20 years ago.
And the 85-year-old Glendale Heights woman intends to walk in the annual event for another 10 years at least.
"It's so much fun. …To be out and see all these people out for the same cause and we know that pretty soon, maybe it will be wiped out," Smith said. "I'm not a pessimist. I'm an optimist. Things will get better." (Hear Mae in her own words at: bit.ly/maes_story .)
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is thrilled to announce the opening of registration for the 2012 AIDS Run & Walk Chicago on September 29 at Soldier Field. This year's event, produced by AFC and Special Events Management, features many exciting changes including a new starting location, an altered route, a spiffy new logo (featured at the top of this release). But the spirit and the purpose remain the same for the thousands, like Mae, who participate: to raise money and awareness to end the AIDS epidemic and to help the estimated 46,000 people living in Illinois with HIV.
"We are extremely excited to breathe new life into the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, while ensuring its sustainability for years to come," said David Ernesto Munar, AFC's president/CEO. "Whether you run, walk or support those who do, we hope you will join Mae and act in honor of those we've lost over the years to AIDS and on behalf of those who continue to be affected by HIV/AIDS."
Unlike previous years, the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will start at Soldier Field not Grant Park.
The 10K route extends south from Soldier Field along Lake Shore Drive, looping back north around
McCormick Place along the beautiful Lake Michigan waterfront and turning back south through Grant Park, toward the home of the Chicago Bears.
The 5K route travels from Soldier Field north along the lakefront, and returning south through Grant Park. Event registration is $30 in advance; $50 on-site. To register as an individual or as a team, visit aidsrunwalk.org or call (312) 334-0946.
AFC is also proud to announce this year's fundraising partners for the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. Under the new guidelines, developed in consultation with AFC's Service Providers Council for the CommunityDirect program, 90% of all money raised by a CommunityDirect team is returned directly to the participating HIV/AIDS-related organization.
The aim was to support AIDS programs and services in Chicago's various neighborhoods, and particularly in those most affected by HIV/AIDS, in a way that's sustainable for the future. The diverse HIV/AIDS-focused organizations chosen represent a mix of budget sizes focused on HIV services and varied geographic reaches of clientele.
"At the heart of AFC's work is partnership," said Joe Hollendoner, senior vice president of programs at AFC. "We look forward to continuing to work with our CommunityDirect partners to raise HIV awareness and funds one step at a time."
The CommunityDirect partners serving the South Side are Greater Full Gospel Church, Jackson Park Hospital, Making A Daily Effort (M.A.D.E.), Men & Women in Prison Ministries, Project VIDA, South Side Help Center, Christian Community Health Center and the Michael Reese HIV Program.
Those serving the North are Emmaus Ministries, Asian Human Services, Young Women's Empowerment Project (YWEP), Chicago Women's AIDS Projects (CWAP), Chicago House, Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) and Howard Brown Health Center.
CommunityDirect partners on the West Side include New Age Services, Austin Health Center, Erie Family Health Center, Vida/SIDA and The Children's Place.
Those organizations approved that provide citywide services were Legal Assistance Foundation, Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA), AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry, HHO/Vital Bridges, The Night Ministry, FCAN, Heartland Human Care Services, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, PACPI and University of Illinois at Chicago — COIP.
And finally, AFC is proud to also partner with organizations that serve people outside of the Chicagoland area: Canticle Ministries, Youth Outlook, Agape Ministries, Catholic Charities of Lake County and Open Door Clinic.
Mark your calendars! Visit aidsrunwalk.org to register today and read more about the incredible story of Mae Smith.