Walkers with umbrellas and raincoats looked up at the still-drizzling sky Sunday afternoon as they gathered at West Sixth Brewing before the 22nd annual AIDS Volunteers Inc. AIDS Walk.
"We will walk, unless it's a thunderstorm," said Jon Parker, executive director of the service agency, commonly known as AVOL.
Fortunately, Mother Nature gave the walk's expected 100 participants a break. Shortly before the 2 p.m. start time, the rain stopped.
Parker, who recently was named executive director of the regional service provider for people with HIV or AIDS, served as the grand marshal.
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"I couldn't be more honored to stand out in front of an excellent organization that is dedicated to such a critical cause," he said. "I'm proud to be an advocate for those who need our help most."
Stephanie Oghia, president of the board of directors of AVOL, said Sunday's walk was about awareness and honoring those who have died and are living with HIV or AIDS.
"It gives us a chance to remember those who have passed and it also gives us an opportunity to show our support for people who are living with AIDS," she said. "We are going to keep going until we find a cure."
AVOL has been providing front-line services for HIV and AIDS patients since 1987. Parker said the group served more than 400 individuals last year through its housing programs or other support programs. AVOL serves 73 counties in Central and Eastern Kentucky. In that area, there are an estimated 3,000 individuals living with HIV.
Fayette County has the second-largest number of HIV-positive residents in Kentucky, Parker said.
Money raised during Sunday's walk will help with unexpected costs for HIV-positive patients that are not covered by the organization's grants, Parker said.
"If someone is spending a lot for medications, they may not have enough money for food or they may be short for a utility bill," Parker explained.
Typically, the annual AIDS March raises about $10,000. This year's march was sponsored by Soundbar. Individual walkers also raise money.
Sunday was Josh Mers' fifth Lexington AIDS Walk.
Mers, chairman of Lexington Fairness, said Lexington's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has banded together to support the AIDS Walk over the years.
"We walk for people who have lost the battle, for people who are living with HIV/AIDS and for those people who may be infected in the future," he said.