They might have rested, or gone to the beach, or taken in a ball game, or done anything else on a beautiful Sunday. But nearly 7,000 Baltimoreans turned out to raise $300,000 for AIDS research by hinking 3.5 miles in AIDSWALK 91.
Although most of the volunteers in yesterday's fourth annual pledge walk were not AIDS victims, many said they they recognized that everyone is touched by AIDS, which has become one one of the nation's leading causes of death.
"I'm not infected, but anybody who knows anybody with AIDS is affected," said Shelley Dunn, 36, of Parkville, who walked for her fourth consecutive year. "We've lost a lot of good people to AIDS, and I'm tired of losing my friends."
The 3.5-mile walk, which went through Guilford, Canterbury-Tuscany and Charles Village, generated more than $300,000 for the Health Education Resource Organization (HERO) and other AIDS-related services. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a deadly disease that attacks the victim's immune system.
HERO, the largest AIDS-service provider in Maryland, has coordinated the walk for the past three years.
The turnout this year was the largest for the event so far. Last year, 5,000 walkers raised $278,000.
This year's walkers -- whose numbers included health-care workers, AIDS patients, politicians, students and small children -- gathered at Garland Field on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Campus at 8 a.m.
"This is and will be one of the major issues of Baltimore City into the 21st century," said Mary Pat Clarke, the City Council president. "It's an issue to be resolved by people power."
Along the route, some talked about the upcoming mayoral race, the warm weather or missed church services. Some carried quilts and posters commemorating people who died of AIDS. Some reminisced about friends and loved ones who succumbed to the disease.
Others complained about the government spending millions of dollars for weekend military parades celebrating the Persian Gulf war victory, instead of on AIDS programs.
"More people need to support efforts like this, because if they don't their community will be hit," said Bunny Creef, 41, a registered nurse who cares for HIV patients. HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus associated with AIDS.
"AIDS cases are still growing in numbers," Creef said. "We haven't started seeing the growth of the disease."
About 62 percent of the 3,240 Marylanders diagnosed with AIDS between January 1, 1981 and January 1, 1991 have died, according to HERO figures. Some 1,940 of those cases have occurred in Baltimore.
John Stuban, 34, of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), said AIDS should not be forgotten after a show of strong community support such as yesterday's march. He said AIDS is an ongoing dilemna, an issue to be addressed daily.
"AIDSWALK isn't one day a year," said Stuban, who is HIV infected. "We need to start walking with AIDS on our minds everyday."
Many walkers stressed the need for government funded community outreach programs to educate all people about AIDS, especially those not infected.
"We need more education," said Gladys Brown, 41, of Baltimore City. "If you're not part of the solution, chances are you may become part of the problem."
Alvin Baker, Jr., 44, who has been in a drug abuse program for 4 years, said the black community needs to be more supportive of efforts to combat aids, since blacks are disproportionately represented in AIDS statistics.
Baker, who participated in the walk for the first time, said he recognizes that gays are not the only people vulnerable to AIDS. He said his drug problem makes him susceptible, too.
"I'm walking for the first time today, but I might be fighting for myself," he said.