This spring, Kenyon is participating in the state’s largest fundraiser for HIV and AIDS service providers for the third time in the College’s history: AIDS Walk Ohio. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the virtual walk and drive-in will take place between April 29 and May 13. Kenyon’s AIDS Walk Ohio team had raised about $5,000 in their last two years of participation to support a variety of prevention and treatment programs.
The fundraiser aims to provide free or reduced-cost medical, dental and mental healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS, who are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) reports in their email that Kenyon’s fundraising team expects to raise at least $2,000 before the virtual walk begins, with the ultimate goal of $3,000. Kenyon’s team has raised $1,757 as of April 13, nearly 90% of their 2021 goal, according to the team’s fundraising page.
Dorian Rhea Debussy, associate director of ODEI and the captain of Kenyon’s fundraising team, spoke of the historic significance of the event. “It is important to … recognize the history of the College’s early AIDS activism and build on this history,” they said. They further explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a harsh reminder of what happens when the government does not respond to a novel virus, drawing parallels to the inadequate government response at the height of the AIDS crisis.
In a normal semester, the Kenyon team’s members would be tabling in Peirce Dining Hall from late February to early April to raise donations. This year, however, they cannot because of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, the Kenyon team has been requesting donations from friends and family. Even with lessened expectations, Debussy emphasized that student efforts are crucial to the success of the fundraiser.
Fundraising is inevitably challenging during a period of economic downturn, but Debussy is thrilled to see continued support for the cause. “Kenyon has been rising to the challenge,” they said. “Even alums and parents of students donated.”
People are able to donate to individual members on the team, or the team as a whole. Emphasizing that every dollar counts, Debussy found that the most effective way to spread the word has been to make connections across the Kenyon campus and to let people know how the team is progressing and how many others are supporting this effort. They have noticed spikes in donations following twice-monthly summary emails.
The cause has received widespread endorsement from across the Kenyon community. “We have always received robust support, particularly from faculty and staff, but this is the first year we have faculty members who have officially joined the team,” Debussy said. “It is crucial for students to see that this is an issue that the faculty also care about.”
Debussy has been impressed with the amount of support from the community in spite of the pandemic. “Whether you’re a student or a staff worker, please consider still signing up for the AIDS Ohio team,” they said. “We have been grateful for the support.”
To learn more about AIDS Walk Ohio and to donate, visit their website.