October 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm EST | by Juliette Ebner
These boots were made for walkin’

Last year's AIDS Walk. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

This year’s AIDS Walk Washington’s grand marshals include D.C. Council member Jim Graham and two others who participated in the first walk back in 1986 — Maudie Jones, a retired Army nurse, and Joe Izzo, a psychotherapist and employee of Whitman-Walker Health since 1986. They may not have the star power of, say, Lynda Carter, who served as grand marshal last year, but their ties to the clinic and the Walk run much deeper.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” Izzo says of being named grand marshal this year. “I just feel old.”

Izzo, 63, not only walked the first year, but has walked every year since, inspired and motivated by the people he has lost to AIDS and his partner who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1992 and has been living with the disease.

“By 1987, I had already lost three dozen friends and acquaintances to HIV/AIDS,” Izzo says of why he walked that first year, losing his first friend to AIDS in 1983. “In fact, that … summer … five of my friends died.”

Izzo says that first year felt more like a demonstration than what the Walk feels like today, with people holding signs asking for more government support.

He looks forward to seeing all the people who participate in the Walk and all the support the event attracts, saying it’s inspiring.

One year that stands out in Izzo’s mind in particular is Oct. 6, 2001, less than a month after the 9-11 attacks.

“We had gotten used to having 10,000 plus people … that year we were lucky to have gotten 2,500,” Izzo says. “It was a steely gray day and every plane that went over, you had your heart in your mouth … but it was a very memorable year … the Walk still happened.”

The 25th Annual AIDS Walk is Saturday and will start and end at Freedom Plaza.

The fundraising goal this year is $1 million and they are hoping for 10,000 participants. As of Tuesday afternoon, about $600,000 had been raised.

Registration, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display and other activities begin at 7 a.m. A program featuring music, speakers and warm-up exercises will begin at 8:15 a.m. and the fifth annual 5k timed run begins shortly after at 8:30. The AIDS Walk will step off at 9:15 and there will be a post-Walk celebration beginning at 10.

Registration fees range from $25 to $40.

For more information and to register for the walk, visit aidswalkwashington.org.


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