Last Saturday, five Kenyon students and staff members traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to participate in the 2019 Robert J. Fass AIDS Walk Ohio; this was the first time Kenyon has participated in the event. After two months of fundraising by the five who attended the Walk and five others who could not be physically there, the team met their $2,500 goal on the day of the Walk, when a Kenyon parent also participating in the walk noticed the team name and donated the final $20. The overall $250,000-dollar goal the Walk set was surpassed by $16,000, and donations will still be accepted during this week.
Timothy Bussey, assistant director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, spearheaded the initiative to form Kenyon’s first team as part of a broader goal of increasing campus awareness of HIV and AIDS.
“AIDS Walk Ohio really made sense for a lot of reasons,” Bussey said. “There seems to have been an interest [at Kenyon] in working more with the community . . . I’ve been interested in seeing the ways in which we can work to foster more awareness around LGBTQ+ issues in the broader community as well.”
Bussey also described Kenyon’s participation as a way of giving back to Equitas Health, one of the main beneficiaries of the fundraiser. Equitas Health is an organization that has worked with the College to provide Knox County’s first free gender and name change clinic, as well as supporting the inagural Queer and Trans Studies Conference that took place on April 6.
Kenyon team members who attended the Walk seemed to enjoy the experience. “It was a way for me to get out of the Kenyon bubble . . . and a simple process to raise money for this really important cause,” Dani Martinez ’21 said. She also noted the informational signs displayed along the route. “I felt so much more knowledgeable after leaving the walk,” she said.
Toby McCabe ’21 appreciated how inclusive and comfortable the Walk felt. “There were so many people and so much energy,” he said. “It was a whole bunch of different people coming together for this one thing that they really wanted to do together.”
Participants expressed hope that Kenyon’s participation in AIDS Walk Ohio would become an annual tradition and would continue to grow. “[It’s not just] a thing that we can ignore once it becomes less popular in the media,” Martinez said. “[AIDS has] such a big stigma . . . If you can end [that], people can actually talk about it and prevent it.”