Thousands expected to take part in annual Desert AIDS Walk as it returns in person on Saturday

Walkers participate in a previous Desert AIDS Walk in Palm Springs. The event returns this weekend, kicking off at 9 AM at Ruth Hardy Park.

More than 2,000 local humanitarians will come together this Saturday to end the HIV epidemic, expand health care access, and remember those friends and family members lost because of AIDS.

The 2021 Desert AIDS Walk, presented by Desert Care Network, will be an in-person event that kicks off at Ruth Hardy Park at 9 AM and follows a route through downtown Palm Springs. The family and pet-friendly event includes a Health and Wellness Village presented by Walgreens.

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WHO: DAP Health

WHAT: Desert AIDS Walk 2021 ’Together Again’

WHEN: Saturday, October 30

  • Registration and Health & Wellness Village Opens 7:00 am
  • Main Stage Entertainment and Presentations 8:00 am
  • Walk Kick-Off 9:00 am
  • Walkers Return to Park 10:30 am

WHERE: Ruth Hardy Park – Route through Downtown Palm Springs

WHY: End HIV/Fund Comprehensive Health Care

HOW: Register Today

The annual Desert AIDS Walk helps fund the vital work of DAP Health, previously Desert AIDS Project, an advocacy-based health care organization that provides service to more than 10,000 individuals.

“We remain committed to ending the epidemic and caring for people living with HIV,” said DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “That work includes the vital services we offer, including HIV prevention and specialty care, STI screening, and treatment, housing support, benefits navigation, medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare.”

The goal for this year’s event is to raise $350,000. Fundraising is already at a record pace.

This year marks 40 years of HIV with the first reported cases about what would become known as HIV and AIDS published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“AIDS taught us a community response is the most effective response,” said Brinkman. It taught us that we cannot turn our backs when communities are in need and in fear, that we must remember our humanity and the gift of giving back and be there to help. And as we have learned through our recent human rights and health equity movements, equality cannot be experienced by one until it is experienced by all.”

Since 1984, residents of the Coachella Valley have been coming together as a community in action caring for those living with and now aging with HIV.

“Desert AIDS Walk brings together the collective power of community and our shared vision of a future where everyone has the comprehensive care they need to live their best lives,” DAP Health Chief Development and Strategy Officer Darrell Tucci said.

Revivals stores has been donating 100 percent of their profits to DAP Health each year since it first opened in 1994. Director of Retail, Dane Koch will join leaders from each of the four Revivals stores for a special check presentation before the walk.

“Our team of volunteers and employees came together this year to make an impact,” Koch said. “Over 6,500 customers donated an average of three dollars as they were checking out of our stores. The collective impact of their generosity resulted in $20,000 being raised at our stores for this year’s walk. To me, it’s a great reminder that every person’s effort matters when we come together with a shared purpose.”

The presenting sponsor of the walk’s Health & Wellness Village, Walgreens, got its team members and customers involved in the fundraising effort again this year setting a new fundraising record. Walgreens will present DAP Health with a check for $17,000 when they take the stage before the walk.

This year’s walk will be kicked off by Ted Guice, who created the G-Force Workout Crew, a grass-roots fitness group that began during the darkest times of the pandemic, and now boasts 585 members on its Facebook page. His free workouts at Ruth Hardy Park kept the community active and connected during COVID-19 attracting anywhere from 60-100 participants each morning.

“I’ve been teaching the class at World Gym for 11 years, but when COVID hit, we moved outdoors into someone’s back yard,” Guice said. “As the class grew, we transitioned into Ruth Hardy Park.  I don’t think anyone imagined how important the daily workout and the sense of community it created would become when we began.”

Jase Nagaia is one of the people who participate in the G-Force work-out and looks forward to the warmup.

“Ted has that energy to warm people up,” said Nagaia. “It’s going to be exciting to be up front helping get people pumped up for the walk. I’m hoping that we have a good turnout because DAP is a wonderful organization and I really love what they do for the community. I really think the energy we bring to class is great energy to bring to the walk.”

Guice promises to bring that G-Force level of fun and fitness to the pre-walk warm-up.

“It’s going to be a fun time,” he said. “We promise them that they’ll be ready to walk.”

DAP Health Director of Development, James Lindquist, remembers his first Desert AIDS Walk.  He moved to Palm Springs from Oregon in 2016, and the first thing he did was volunteer for the Desert AIDS Walk. He helped register volunteers and handed out ice cream.

“By the end of the day, I was covered in ice cream. It was a lot of fun,” Lindquist says. “I told my friends when I moved to Palm Springs, my goal was one day to be the Director of Development for DAP Health. I just knew it was something I wanted to do.”

Ending HIV stigma is a passion for Lindquist, who lives with HIV.

“It’s the stigma that was associated with it and just the feeling of being lesser when you would talk to people about it,” Lindquist says. “It took a while for me to find my voice and it was not until I started working for an AIDS organization that I found that. And so, for me doing this job, is helping somebody else find their voice and knowing that they are important and cared about. We are people living with HIV, but it doesn’t define us. It’s not going to dictate how I’m treated.”

“I just think it’s such a great inclusive, fun event that raises money for the bottom line, because it’s underwritten by some very generous sponsors,” says DAP Health Board Chairman Patrick Jordan. “So, every cent actually goes directly to client care. And to me, that’s the most important part.”

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