Walk-a-thon to raise awareness about AIDS prevention

    Approximately 700 people will walk in Chicago with unlit candles to support a health clinic in Zimbabwe and promote health care in local communities May 4. If Footsteps in Hope director Liz Coleclough has it her way, more than 200 of them will be Northwestern students.

    Footsteps in Hope was founded by Coleclough, a 2007 Northwestern graduate, after her return from Africa last summer. She was driven to support the prevention of AIDS after losing two people whom she had grown close to in Zimbabwe to the epidemic.

    As a new student organization, the group chose to focus on a walk-a-thon for the year.

    “This is about working together with the community to empower change,” Coleclough said.

    Footstep’s walk-a-thon is meant to raise awareness and build resources to improve health care and HIV treatment education in impoverished areas around the world. The walk is 8 kilometers long – one meter for every person who dies in a day from an AIDS-related illness – and the course will be in the shape of an AIDS ribbon, if the site allows for it. Participants hold a candle during the walk and at a vigil afterward to represent hope and renewed opportunity for life.

    “I think [Northwestern has] a pretty active community in things like public health and health education and global affairs,” said Weinberg sophomore Caitlin Brown, one of the group’s volunteer coordinators. “So we decided to kind of tap into that.”

    Footsteps has a 21-and-over fundraiser this Thursday night at the 1800 Club. Group members will accept donations of five dollars at the door from attendees and three dollars from those who register for the walk-a-thon.

    Registered fundraisers may work in teams of five to 10 people to raise 10 cents for every meter of the walk, for a total of 800 dollars, to become a “supporter.” Those who raise one dollar for every meter of the race, for a total of 8,000 dollars, become “benefactors.”

    Half of the money raised in Footsteps’ fundraising efforts will go directly to a clinic in Zimbabwe which regularly treats HIV patients, while 30 percent of the proceeds will benefit local health care programs. Another 20 percent will cover the operational costs of the walk-a-thon, which will most likely take place in Chicago’s Grant Park, although the location has not been finalized.

    Until recently, Footsteps in Hope has mainly sought out financial support from organizations. Globe, another student group committed to advancing awareness of global issues, will cover some of Footsteps’ operational costs. Footsteps has tried to raise awareness among NU students recently through painting the rock Feb. 21 and promoting their upcoming fundraiser and recruiting events.

    “This is a really unique organization in how it deals with HIV/AIDS,” said Footsteps co-chair Dara Carroll, a Weinberg sophomore. “There are a lot of organizations that just support the global cause, mainly the African cause, or just support the local cause. The way that [Coleclough] has integrated the local and global is really important because it gives the people in the community the right perspective. It gets the focus off it just being an African issue so people can understand that it’s an issue that they need to deal with in their own community.”


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