20,000 People Jam Central Park With An Eye On Helping Those In Need And Spreading Awareness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of people gathered in Central Park on Sunday for a good cause, raising millions of dollars to help end the AIDS crisis.

It was a show of strength in numbers. More than 20,000 joined together for a common cause, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.

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“If no one else needs to die from this disease, it would be a dream come true,” said Akil King, who was marching for his mother.

King was 7 when his mom died.On Sunday, his family took part in AIDS Walk New York for the first time.

“It’s something that’s affected our family tremendously and to have the courage for us to come here, it’s kind of healing for our family,” said King, who hails from Colombia.

AIDS Walk New York

AIDS Walk New York took place on May 20, 2018, in Central Park. (Photo: CBS2)

The walk has been taking place in the park for 33 years — rain or shine.

“We thought it was gonna be a wet and rainy day, but the sun is coming out, so it’s a sign from God that we should be here to fight for this cause,” said Sharard Jacques of Metroplus Healthcare.

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“Unless we all do our part, we won’t see the end of it, so I help walk for those and volunteer for those who can’t,” added Mickey Ronan of Washington Heights.

The money raised from the event is crucial for the organization’s “Gay Men’s Health Crisis,” helping those in the Tri-State Area affected by HIV and AIDS.

“We serve more than 13,000 clients a year through such vital services as legal services, nutritional counseling, mental health and substance abuse services, HIV testing and prevention and support of housing,” GMHC executive officer Kelsey Louie said.

Maria Davis, an AIDS survivor of 19 years, said the organization helped her tremendously. When asked what’s the most important thing she wants people to know, she said, “To get tested. Love yourself, so that you can make better choices. We don’t have to run after men. We don’t have to run after women. Love starts with you first.”

The hope was people would also walk away from the day ready to spread awareness.

Organizers said the Central Park walk is the world’s largest single-day AIDS fundraising event, which in the past three decades has raised more than $150 million for the cause.

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Organizers said they had a goal of raising $4.2 million on Sunday and ended up raising $4,416,919.