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Can Ottawa AIDS Walk reverse declining revenues?

Rick Mercer walks for life

AIDS Walk 2004 reversed a multi-year stagnation in fundraising for one of the most important events in the annual autumn gay calendar. Now the question is, can we do it again?

Last year, more than $93,000 in pledges was raised – $7,000 more than the previous year and more than had been raised since the mid-1990s, says Franceska Gnarowski, the coordinator for this year’s local walk. And up to 1,500 walkers pounded the pavement.

Gnarowski is hoping that this year’s twilight walk will top that, with the help of Canada’s sassy comedian Rick Mercer, who has signed on as the spokesperson.

AIDS has fallen off the radar in recent years, says Gnarowski. And that’s had an impact on fundraising efforts across Canada. But the incidence of HIV transmission – particularly among gay men, aboriginals, and IV drug users – has been rising.

“People tend to forget that someone is infected every two hours in Canada,” she says.

Revenues from the local walk go to nine charities, including Bruce House, the AIDS Committee Of Ottawa and Pink Triangle Services. Participants can specify which charity they want their funds to go to.

The annual AIDS Walk gala, previously hosted by Bill Renaud, will be hosted Sep 15 by Heather Skuce of Remax. If you buy a $500 ticket ($750 for a couple), “You can expect to mix and mingle with 75 guests from the business community,” says Gnarowski. “There are refreshments and entertainment. It’s a good networking event.” And there’s a tax receipt. (Call Ron Chaplin at 241-3562 for tickets.)

Oh, and there’s one more new aspect this year: people can now donate on-line. And you can do e-mail marketing to friends to drum up pledges.