The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday November 26th

Walkathon Stretches From UNC to NCSU

Olagunju was the registration coordinator for the Impact AIDS Walkathon, in which 30 volunteers made the 27-mile walk from UNC-Chapel Hill's Bell Tower to the Bell Tower at N.C. State University in Raleigh. The fund-raiser was sponsored by the Impact Movement organizations at UNC-CH and N.C. State. The Impact Movement is a Christian ministry specifically for black students.

Member Micah Gilmer, a UNC-CH sophomore, said he proposed the idea for the walkathon to benefit AIDS relief after traveling to South Africa. "Seeing so many people suffering from AIDS left me emotionally devastated," he said.

For that reason, proceeds from the event will be divided between national and international efforts. Money raised will support both Operation Sunrise, a program that sends teenagers and adults to African communities, and the AIDS Foundation of South Africa.

Participants earned pledges for the 27-mile walk, which began at the UNC -CH Bell Tower at 7 a.m. Saturday and ended at the N.C. State Bell Tower at 5 p.m.

Gilmer said more than a dozen UNC-CH organizations assisted the group by raising pledges and making donations from their annual budget. Students from both campuses also contacted businesses, seeking donations to meet their $100,000 goal. Figures were not available Sunday for how much the walkathon raised.

On Saturday, participants traversed the UNC-CH campus throughout the morning before taking to the sidewalks of N.C. 54. A brief pause occurred in Durham County, when walkers crowded into vans because officials denied them permission to walk along the highway. After clearing county lines, the walkers resumed their trek until reaching N.C. State, Gilmer said.

Despite the obstacle, Olagunju said he is glad the event covered such a great distance. "The length of the walk shows the magnitude of the problem we're facing."

Half the walkers opted to travel part of the distance, but N.C. State sophomore Fatima Varner chose to spend all day walking from one bell tower to another.

She said the distance symbolizes the group's efforts to make an impact in the community and throughout the world.

"I do think we're ending at the better Bell Tower, though," she said.

Ladiner Blaylock, a Nortel Networks employee in the Research Triangle Park, said she decided to walk after Gilmer spoke to her congregation at the Body of Christ Church in Raleigh.

Although Blaylock has one friend who passed away from AIDS, she said most Americans do not witness the effects of the disease on a personal level.

"Think of the people in this country who have turned their heads away from the problem because it doesn't directly affect them," Blaylock said.

While most of Saturday's participants lacked first-hand experience with AIDS, Olagunju said he is pleased with volunteer efforts to address the problem on a larger scale. "The walkathon shows people that African-American youths care about what's going on outside the United States."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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