Main Event: Walkers lend a hand to AIDS Network

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The Rochester AIDS Walk is held at Quarry Hill Nature Center Oct. 2.

The rain held off long enough on Oct. 2 to complete the 13th Annual Rochester AIDS Walk at Quarry Hill Nature Center.

About 80 participants, old and young. finished the walk, which raised $3,000 for the Professional AIDS Network (PAN). The money is used to help meet the unmet needs of HIV-positive individuals. All of the money raised is used directly for that purpose.

The Professional AIDS Network is comprised of community members interested in HIV/AIDS issues, who plan fundraising activities throughout the year.

Mary Gorfine, coordinator of Olmsted County's Youth Commission said, "We have participated in the walk for several years and believe in its importance."

"This is an intergenerational event," said Julia Karon, a Mayo High School student. "I am volunteering for this. It's a way to get a sense of leadership outside of the school and supports a good cause."


"There are so many issues at stake; mental illness, homelessness to name a few," said Victoria Skolnick, who has been involved in the walk the last three years. "I've met so many interesting people and have been pleased that we have been approached by the community to talk at various venues. Correct information is important."

Jason Huynh, also a high school student at Mayo, said, "This is encouraging. There's lots of information I will take back to Mayo High School and share."

Katarina Larsen, age 6, was walking with her mother, Amanda Larsen. "Katarina came home and told me she reminded her friends at school that the walk was tonight. She knows this is important so she donated $15 from her own piggy bank," said Amanda, a pastor at the United Methodist Church in Lanesboro and Wykoff. "Our church is working on responding to the AIDS issue. I try to help with what I can."

Mary St Marie, chairwoman for PAN, said the all-volunteer organization works at the grassroots level. "We are open to everyone and try to help as many as we can in Southeast Minnesota," she said. "We had good support from the teams, those who donated things for the silent auction and those helping with the activities. The money is so important."

Refreshments were served along with a heaping helping of family-friendly education. A silent auction of designer pumpkins was a hit, and a raffle was held with those who raised $75 or more eligible for the grand prize; a Google Nexus tablet.

The PAN organization helps provide links to local resources in addition to providing such basic expenses as rent, food and transportation for those who are HIV-positive or have AIDS.

More information, volunteer opportunities and instructions on how to contribute can be found at , and on the Professional AIDS Network page on Facebook.

Debi Neville is a Rochester freelance writer.


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