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Memories Stirred at 10th AIDS Walk

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bobbie Dunn and her sister, Beverly Henry, wore matching pink T-shirts during Sunday’s 10th annual AIDS Walk Orange County.

Emblazoned in bold letters on each of their chests were the words, “In Memory of David.”

“We’re walking so that no other parents will have to hold their children while they’re dying of AIDS,” said Dunn, a Stanton resident whose son, David, died of the disease two years ago at age 31. “It makes me feel good that we’re helping other people with AIDS.”

The sisters were among an estimated 12,000 to 13,000 participants who spent part of Sunday making the annual 6.2-mile trek around the UC Irvine campus to raise money for people with AIDS. The crowd was at least 2,000 stronger than last year’s and, organizers said, the largest in the event’s 10-year history.

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“The field was filled,” said Joann Ruden, executive director of AIDS Walk Orange County, which sponsors the event. “The people were just packed in.”

Organizers said the AIDS Walk was also highly profitable, bringing in about $355,000--almost $30,000 more than last year’s event.

“We are finally getting out from under the county’s bankruptcy,” Ruden said. “Last year, we were hurt by the layoffs. But this year, people are being more generous. I am very encouraged, very excited and very grateful to the Orange County community for its support. We must eradicate this disease, and this is the best way to do it.”

Ruden said the money will be turned over to various Orange County agencies that offer services to people with AIDS. Last year, she said, 14 agencies benefited from the AIDS Walk.

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The event’s most profitable year to date, Ruden said, was 1993 when about 8,000 participants generated $425,000.

Sunday’s thousands of walkers--including moms with baby carriages, dads with daughters and children on in-line skates--rocked to the sounds of a sidewalk disc jockey and accepted offerings of water and oranges from volunteers stationed along the way.

Craig Brians, 34, of Irvine said he had brought his two daughters, ages 8 and 11, to the walk in memory of their uncle who died of AIDS last year.

“It’s important not just to vote for something but to actually put yourself into it,” Brians said. “This is a nice family event.”

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Sandy Case of Laguna Hills said she decided to attend the event after learning that the disease had been diagnosed in her 51-year-old brother.

“It’s made me more compassionate,” said Case, 50.

And Arlene Baker, speaking through tears, said she was moved to participate in the AIDS Walk by the recent death of a friend’s 11-year-old daughter, who was born with HIV.

“It’s sad to see something this ravaging spread through a nation and not be able to do more about it,” said Baker, 43, of Orange.

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Did she expect the AIDS Walk to really make a difference?

“Everything helps,” Baker said.


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