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30,000 in NYC AIDS Walk Sunday as crucial fundraiser turns 30

Victories notched in complex AIDS battle -- but oh so much more to do

More than 30,000 community-minded Metropolitan New York-area residents were set to join the 30th annual AIDS WALK New York Sunday morning.

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It was shaping up to be a beautiful day for an event that stares the ugly killer down with millions of crucial dollars for health services.

Tony winner Victoria Clark -- who is nominated again this year for her role in Broadway’s Gigi -- was to set the tone at the opening ceremony in Central Park, ahead of the walk’s 10 a.m. start.

Clark was to belt out the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "You'll Never Walk Alone” from the stage next to the Sheep Meadow.

The song is very much part of the mission of GMHC, founded as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the agency that gets the lion’s share of the millions raised by the 10K walk that starts and ends in the park. More than 40 other agencies also benefit.

Through the years, AIDS Walk New York has had more than 890,000 people walk to millions more donate. It is -- by far -- the single largest AIDS money raiser in the world and has pumped more than $139 million into the war on AIDS.

When GMHC was founded, its efforts were very much directed at helping gay men at time when funding and research was murderously lacking -- and when the late President Ronald Reagan dared not even utter the words HIV or AIDS for years.

Nowadays, GMHC and its core affiliates are involved in the war on AIDS on multiple dimensions.

For instance, Keep a Child Alive falls under its umbrella. (It is the group featured in the video atop this article. Co-founded by Alicia Keys and long-time activist Leigh Blake, Keep a Child Alive was born in early 2003 as an emergency push to get life-saving HIV medications to impoverished African families, who otherwise would not have had access to treatment.

The reasons why people walk and their stories are fascinating -- and worth reading on the walk’s website.

Jim Brett, the CEO of design mecca West Elm, is the top individual fundraise r, with $68,000; and his company’s team, the top fundraising group, with $107,5000.

And then there is the incomparable 90-something Rita Fischer, who first walked in 1986 and raised $300. Last year? $70,102. And with this year’s march, her grand total over the decades is pushing $1 million.

Fischer got involved when her son first came out as gay - many many moons ago.

Here is the StoryCorps interview between mother and son. Caution: F Bombs are dropped!

The march will end with a concert in the park. Beside Clark, the event has some heavy duty star power backing it up -- Tyne Daly, David Hyde Pierce, Nick Wechsler, Kit Williamson, Bellamy Young and CBS2 News Anchor Dana Tyler are all expected to appear.

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