John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk

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The John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk and Run, the largest and longest-running annual fundraiser for HIV/AIDS service organizations in northeast Ohio, was held annually between 1991-2009. AIDS Walk Events have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the education, treatment, and outreach services and programs of nearly a dozen northeast Ohio AIDS service organizations. For over two decades, Cleveland’s AIDS Walk Run events have provided opportunities for “thousands of people to walk in memory of loved ones they have lost to AIDS” while “raising awareness and critically needed funding for northeast Ohio organizations providing services to people living with and affected by HIC and AIDS.”

The Health Issues Taskforce organized the first Cleveland AIDS Walk, a pledge benefit dubbed “A Step in the Right Direction,” on October 26, 1991. A “few dozen participants” attended the first 6.2-mile-long walk at Edgewater Park. Walkers proceeded from Edgewater Park’s Upper Picnic Area to Lakewood Park via Lake Avenue. After reaching Lakewood Park, participants doubled back via Clifton Avenue and returned to Edgewater Park. Along the way, “live bands, clowns and mimes, treats and food,” and a variety of “pit-stops and planned activities along the way” helped “cultivate a sense of community and family” among the walk’s participants. The 1991 AIDS Walk raised roughly $5,000 for the Health Issues Taskforce. In 1992, an optional 5k Run was held for the first time separate from the established walk route. 1993 was the first year that the Annual AIDS Walk Run was organized by an event board separate from the Health Issues Taskforce. That year, four organizations (including “the AIDS Housing Council, the Free Clinic of Greater Cleveland, the Living Room, and Stopping AIDS is my Mission”) joined the Health Issues Taskforce as beneficiaries of the annual AIDS Walk Run. The number of beneficiary organizations expanded to nine the following year with the addition of “the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Northern Ohio Chapter, the Open House, Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland, and the Women’s Center of Greater Cleveland” and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland as co-recipients of funds raised by event sponsors and participants in 1994.

In 1995, the event’s name was formally changed to the ‘John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk Run’ in honor of the life (and recent accidental death) of “University Hospital AIDS researcher and physician” Dr. John T. Carey. The 1995 John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk Run attracted nearly 5,000 participants and collected $200,000 for the event’s nine beneficiary AIDS service organizations. Though participation dropped to 4,000 in 1996, organizers’ intense efforts to cultivate corporate sponsorships the year prior had garnered the event a record-breaking $210,000 in donations. The trend of declining participation and increasing revenue continued the following year as the event saw roughly 3,500 participants bring in nearly $235,000 in 1997. In 1999, organizers attempted to make the annual event more “walker-friendly” by shortening the traditional walk route to “just over 3” total miles. The new route began at Edgewater Park, as in previous years, but followed a revised path that saw participants double back to Edgewater at West 117th Street instead of Lakewood Park (roughly “1 1/2 miles further west”). Between 1998-2004, annual AIDS Walk Run events attracted roughly 2,500-3,000 participants to Edgewater Park and raised between $200,000-250,000 per year for a revolving cast of beneficent AIDS service organizations.

In 2005, the John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk relocated from its traditional space at Edgewater Park to a new “scenic” route University Circle. From the event’s new University Circle location, AIDS walk participants “followed a curving path” that circled around Wade Oval, later crossing Euclid Avenue and heading “through the atrium of University Hospitals” before returning to Wade Oval. The annual event remained at University Circle between 2005-2008. In 2008, however, a new route was devised that “detoured west on Chester [Avenue]” before “looping through the Cleveland Clinic and back to University Hospitals before returning to Wade Oval.” Only 611 participants attended the 2008 AIDS Walk Run, a far cry from the several thousand the event attracted in years prior. The following year, the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland announced that the 2009 John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk Run would be the event’s final iteration. Cleveland’s annual AIDS Walk Run event was one of the few still recurring by the late 2000s, and organizers believed that it had “reached the end of its proverbial life cycle” amid annually declining attendance rates and broader shifting social priorities. Cleveland’s final annual AIDS Walk Run attracted just shy of 500 participants to University Circle.

Additional information coming soon.


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Upper Edgewater Dr, Cleveland, OH 44102 (Upper Pavilion, Edgewater Park)

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