2 min

Going strong after eight years

On his first AIDS Walk, Tim Martin's wallet disappeared

BUT THEN... When Tim Martin found the billfold again, his faith in humanity returned. Credit: Mark Bogdanovic

Bright-eyed and beaming with enthusiasm, Tim Martin is dragging his retired parents to the big city for this year’s annual AIDS Walk.

“We can always use more volunteers,” says the chair of AIDS Walk Toronto. He had just driven downtown from his home in the Beaches and is soon to head out of town with his partner to visit family.

Martin now puts in about 20 volunteer hours a week helping set up the Sun, Sep 24 event – that is expected to attract more than 15,000 walkers.

“Getting involved at the level I did was almost by accident,” says Martin, now into his eighth year of AIDS Walk volunteering.

But volunteer work is something that Martin has been dabbling with since his teenage years. Growing up in Scarborough, he and his parents would help out at their local Progressive Conservative office.

“I always felt that most people have a lot of time on their hands,” he says. “You have the choice of using that time well or not.

“What else would have I been doing? Watching TV or drinking with friends?” he adds with a laugh.

His first year out, setting things up for the AIDS Walk, was miserable. He dragged himself out of bed at 5am. The rain didn’t stop all day, ruining his leather jacket. His wallet disappeared.

“You know that horrible sinking feeling in your stomach when you lose something?” he says. The wallet showed up, thanks to an anonymous tip, restoring Martin’s “faith in humanity.”

This 11th AIDS Walk is shaping up to fit the organizers’ goal of making it better than ever. New additions include a free BBQ for the participants, a beer tent and activities for kids.

“It’s like a thank you party. And there will also be little surprises – I’ll leave it up to you to discover,” says Martin cheekily.

The community fair to be set up at the start and finish line at Nathan Phillips Square will feature information booths by the AIDS Committee Of Toronto and its partner agencies.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to hock their wares, so to speak,” says Martin. Since its inception, the walk has gathered more than $5.5 million to support these organizations’ initiatives. It is the largest single-day AIDS fundraising event in Canada (and there are many walks happening across the country that same day – call your local AIDS agency to find out more).

What appeals to Martin’s sense of philanthropy is the nice warm fuzzy he feels when he watches the big day unfold.

“Knowing that I helped lead the creation of this great big machine is very exciting.”

Last year Martin, who works full time developing e-mail communication systems, ranked as one of the top fundraisers, and set his pledge goal at $1,500.

The trick to raking in pledges is to write compelling e-mails, he says, and to ask potential donors for at least double what you think they’ll be willing to give you.

“If you think you can get $25 from them, ask for $50. Then they’ll at least give you $30.”