Thom Medrano is excited! Registration has just opened for AIDS Walk New York and Medrano, who coordinates all the walkers and teams, says enthusiasm is already high as people anticipate returning to Central Park on Sunday, May 21.
GMHC has launched a brand-new website at AIDSWalkNY.org to make it super-easy to register and fundraise, and people have already started getting their teams together, spiffing up their fundraising pages, and collecting donations.
“I get excited when I see the momentum building and people coming back on board and getting engaged,” says Medrano, who’s worked with AIDS Walk New York for over 20 years. “It’s like coming back to school after vacation.”
We were thrilled at the outpouring of energy and love from our community last year, when over 6,000 people, including 500 teams, converged on Central Park for the first in-person AIDS Walk New York since 2019, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our incredible walkers, teams and sponsors raised almost $2.25 million for GMHC and other HIV and AIDS organizations in the tri-state area. Medrano is hoping to top that this year.
AIDS Walk New York started out in 1986 as a grassroots fundraiser for GMHC to help people who were sick or dying of AIDS and to lobby for research and treatment. While there’s still no cure or vaccine for HIV, now we can link people with life-saving testing, prevention, treatment and supportive services, including food, counseling, peer education, and housing.
And, AIDS Walk New York is still very much a community event that benefits GMHC’s vital services for people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.
Currently, the top 10 teams for fundraising include drag queens, accountants, Ballroom stars and churchgoers—namely, the CandyWrappers (No. 2), PwC (No. 4), House of Xtravaganza (No. 5) and the Church of Saint Francis (No. 10). In fact, Team Saint Francis just edged ahead of the Chinese-American Planning Council’s Community Health Services team, now at No. 11.
AIDS Walk New York has become a communal tradition for many teams. Francine Goldstein, one of GMHC’s most stalwart supporters, is leading the fundraising as she embarks on her 35th AIDS Walk to keep a promise she made long ago to her best friend, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991.
The CandyWrappers are on their 12th AIDS Walk New York. Two close friends, Candy Samples and Jesse Pasackow started the team in 2012 with the slogan “Use Your Powers for Good” after one of their friends tested positive for HIV.
Team INFINITY is marking its 13th year, after starting out as “a small group of friends walking together in memory of those we have lost and the impact it has had on our LGBTQIA community through the years,” its team page says. Over the years, friends and family members have joined “in support of not only those we have lost, but those who are currently living with HIV and AIDS.”
lNFINITY’s team captain, Luis Enrique Riera, says on his fundraising page that he has been living with HIV for 18 years. “I do the walk because I feel it’s important to help those around me who either can’t anymore and those in need. … Being HIV+ has changed my life and I can only hope that with sharing my story with others it can help them,” he says.
Raising awareness and fighting stigma are important motivators for many supporters of AIDS Walk New York, which is the world’s largest and most visible HIV and AIDS fundraising event.
New teams join every year too. One, No Cure No Rest, already has 73 members!
Medrano is thrilled about reconnecting with all of the walkers and teams he works with—and he’s equally thrilled about the new AIDSWalkNY.org website. The team and individual fundraising pages are a lot more engaging and responsive, he says, so team members can see all their activity and progress in real time.
Here are a few tips he shared for creating an effective fundraising page:
- First, make it personal. Share why you’re doing AIDS Walk New York and upload a profile photo.
- It’s quick and intuitive to upload photos (and videos!) with the new website, so Medrano advises adding plenty. “It’s nice to have something engaging for people to look at,” he says.
- You can easily personalize the URL that links to your fundraising page (so it shows your name instead of numbers). Don’t be shy about sharing it with everyone you know, and ask them to sponsor you, Medrano says. His fundraising page URL is part of his email signature, which just landed him an $80 donation from someone he didn’t even know.
- Post your fundraising page link on social media and tag @gmhc, so we can promote your posts!
- If you’re a returning walker, reach out to Medrano to retrieve your donor history. He can send you a list going back to 2015 with contact information and the amount each person gave.
“I’m here to help,” he says. Email Medrano at email@example.com or call him at (212) 807-9255 for help with your fundraising page or any other AIDS Walk New York questions. He also closely monitors firstname.lastname@example.org. (Our tip for readers: He’s an early bird, so catch him in the mornings!)
As Team INFINITY says: “We appreciate all the support we can get! Together we can make a difference!”
Join us! Register here, and if you can’t make it to Central Park, support your favorite walker or team here.