AIDS Walk organizers take strides against illness

WMC student groups set up fund-raiser today

April 01, 2001|By Pepper Ballard | Pepper Ballard,SUN STAFF

Western Maryland College students wanted something to walk about, so student organizations ASAP and Circle K, both community service groups, will be hosts of Carroll County's first AIDS Walk today.

Erin Owen, president of ASAP, which stands for AIDS, Support, Awareness and Prevention, said she had hoped to get 500 walkers but that the groups have gotten a little more than 100.

"I always aim high for things," Owen said. Having 100 walkers "is still going to make a difference."

Mohindra Ramphal, ASAP treasurer, said the group hopes to contribute close to $4,000 to the AIDS Fund of Carroll County (AFCC) based on the $2,500 it has raised and corporate sponsors the groups have received.

Owen said the groups have been organizing the walk since September and that she wants the community to recognize the disease.

"I want everyone to know that AIDS is a growing problem here, too, not just in the big cities of our country. This disease affects everyone on some level," she said.

The county has 45 to 50 AIDS patients, she said.

"Our caseload is increasing rapidly," said Debbie Middleton, supervisor of the county Health Department's communicable disease program. "We are seeing about two new clients each week, and these are not just drug abusers from broken homes. There are a lot of young people, and the middle-class teen-ager is just as susceptible because they are engaging in the same high-risk behaviors."

Carroll is among the fastest-growing counties in Maryland, she said.

"And people don't check their behaviors at the border," she said.

The 5-mile AIDS walk will wind through Westminster streets from the Carroll County Farm Museum to the college and back again.

Middleton, who will walk alongside a few of her Health Department colleagues, said, "This is wonderful for us. These [Western Maryland College] students might not even be from our area, but this is their home for several years, and they want to get involved. They know that HIV is a problem here that must be dealt with. And it's a very expensive medical problem and we appreciate the work they are doing to call attention to it."

Owen, a senior music and theater arts major from Gambrills in Anne Arundel County, said, "We do care about this community, and we want to help."

Owen, Ramphal, Joe Miller and Circle K's Megan Martin have worked hard to line up support from the business community to cover printing expenses, food and entertainment at an after-walk celebration.

Acabelles, a college a cappella group, and Room 402, a band formed at WMC, will play at the post-walk party at the farm museum. Members of ASAP will perform skits. Doughnuts to pizza have been donated for the festivities.

The individual walker fee is $15 for students and $20 for adults. There is no late registration fee, as was previously advertised, Owen said. Group rates are available. The fee covers the cost of the event's official T-shirt and a donation to the AFCC. In addition, each walker can sign up extra walkers. Registration at the farm museum starts at 9:30 a.m. A warm-up begins at 11:15 a.m., with the walk scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Information: Owen, 410-751-8235; or Ramphal, 410-751-8213.

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