For twenty-five years AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5k Run has been raising awareness and funds for those that are affected by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in the Atlanta area. HIV is a virus that compromises your immune system, and without proper treatment eventually leads to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) which can be deadly. The fight against this disease has made amazing progress in the past twenty years, but it is far from over, and people like Sean Ellis, one of the AWA5K yearly participants, knows this.
According to statistics provided by the United States Federal Government (on AIDS.gov), there are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in America. There about 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year and approximately almost 1 in 8 of individuals infected with HIV don’t even know they are infected. Further, according to 2013 data provided from the Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA is the 8th highest city with new cases of infection.
There is a constant need for funds to help those diagnosed with HIV to stay healthy and to also bring awareness so that we decrease the number of people infected (or who are unaware of their positive status). This is where fundraisers like AWA5k come in. The money raised at this event help people infected with HIV or AIDS in the Atlanta area to receive the treatment they need. The funds also help with clinical research, mental health services, and a variety of other services that are critically needed.
Sean Ellis has been participating in AIDS Walk Atlanta for three years now. He belongs to a team dubbed “Max’s Men” for which he is currently a co-captain with his good friend, Charlie Ballard. “The team is named after our friend Max,’ Ellis explains, “who is known affectionately as Nana. He is our bartender, baker extraordinaire and most importantly our friend.”
Last year Sean’s team raised nearly $20k for AWA5K. This year, AWA5K is trying to raise a total of $1.25 million. For their part, in honor of the 25th Anniversary of AWA5K, “Max’s Men” is trying to reach a goal of $25k.
“As of this moment, we have only raised 18% of our goal.” Says Sean, “We are proud of what we have done so far, but we could really use the help to hit our goal, as there are only 3 weeks until the walk… Last year, the walk raised nearly $1 million. It is hard to tell if that total will be matched or exceeded, but I certainly hope we can. Most donations come in in the last month before the walk, so I am cautiously optimistic that the goal will be met.
Sean further explained that the fight against HIV/AIDS is very personal for him, “I have lost a few friends to this disease and have lived with HIV since 2006 and would not be here without the resources provided to me by organizations that benefit from this walk. Not only does the $1.25 million go a long way to caring for and saving people’s lives, but this walk also provides hope to many and helps to fight the stigma attached to a positive test result.”
Sean noted that one of the biggest obstacles this year for raising the $25k has been that some of their sponsors from previous years have decided to sit this year out. He hopes they will return next year, but that still means they have to find new resources to reach the goal for 2015.
“Max’s Men” definitely have their work cut for them.
When asked if he had any advice for anyone who might participate in the walk or 5k this year, Sean said the following:
“My advice is to take to heart the motto of AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5k and remember that Every Life Deserves Hope. The fight against HIV/AIDS is not finished until we have zero new infections and deaths from this disease. I would also remind anyone that they are participating in a worthy and important event, and to not be afraid to do whatever they can to ask for donations! Everyone should feel proud of the work they are doing to support this cause.”
The walk and 5k will be held on October 18, 2015.
For anyone who likes to donate to Sean Ellis’s team, you can do so by clicking HERE.
If you would like to learn about AIDS Walk Atlanta, or maybe get involved yourself, you can do so by going to their website: www.aidswalkatlanta.com
Good luck to Sean and the rest of the team at “Max’s Men”! We hope you reach your goal!