With attendance shrinking over the past three years, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force declared its 10th annual AIDS Walk will also be its last.
Long-time Walk volunteer Bob Michelucci labels walks "passé" and tedious due to overuse. PATF Teams Coordinator Kira Mamula agrees, saying walks were something to do way back in the early '90s. Mark Petri, another volunteer, offers a grimmer explanation: New medications for the disease have lulled the public into disregarding it. "When people aren't dying, people stop trying," he says.
Yet the most persuasive reason for the end to the AIDS Walk is, as always, the bottom line. Gina Focareta, PATF communications director, says the time and money ($30,000) poured into PATF's largest fundraiser has become a liability. Corporate underwriting is down and competition against the 7,000 other walks in Pittsburgh is up. Last year, a day-long downpour cancelled the walk altogether; the fewest walkers -- 800 -- participated and the least amount of money -- $86,000 -- was raised since the first walk in 1994.
According to Focareta, PATF is considering a dance marathon, a basketball tournament or a bike race.
Many PATF workers and volunteers were upset to hear of the end of the walk, but sounded optimistic.
"[The event has] run its course, no pun intended," says volunteer Lori Petri, wife of Mark. "I see the end of the walk as the beginning of something else."