Why I Walk- Zach’s Story
Walking to Keep the Conversation Going
By Zach Sparrow
I have lived in Tucson for 13 years and started getting involved with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) soon after arriving. A very dear friend of mine works at SAAF and I have friends who have benefitted from SAAF’s many services. After volunteering for AIDSWALK several years ago, I witnessed the unique sense of community that is fostered by SAAF and the diverse collection of participants, volunteers, and employees. After my first AIDSWALK, I started volunteering for other SAAF events because I discovered a passion for helping others in this community and because of the good feeling I got by being part of the energy and fun that abounds.
Getting involved with AIDSWALK is important to me because of the continued need to focus on awareness, prevention, and support for those who are affected by HIV/AIDS. When I was a teen in the 1990s the message was that AIDS is a disease that primarily affected gay men. In fact, when I came out to my family at 16 years old, my mother’s reaction was, “Oh no, I don’t want you to die of AIDS!” That response aggravated me so much because out of all of my siblings, I was the only one who was not sexually active, yet the STD conversation never came up with my heterosexual siblings. It was that moment that made me realize there was a need for awareness and education and I was inspired to take on the subject for a high school sophomore class research paper assignment. Talk about an awkward reaction from my teacher and classmates in a small, remote town in Utah in 1995!
Since then, my passion for awareness and involvement has grown and it’s so amazing to see the community’s involvement. I have met and connected with others who have lost family members to AIDS and it encourages me to stay involved because there is still so much that can be done. Recently, a co-worker asked, “People still get AIDS?” Definitely a sign that our message has not reached everyone.
Having AIDSWALK happen on the same weekend as Tucson Meet Yourself has upped the level of energy and fun that can surround an event focused on making a difference. It’s hard not to be pumped up from the high-energy music and “pep rally” that occurs just before the walk begins. I hope you will join me and 100s of others as we Walk to keep the conversation going.
Click here to support Zach’s Walk.
Click here to register for AIDSWALK