This year Nashville CARES will host its 24th Annual Nashville AIDS Walk and 5K Run, Tennessee’s oldest continuously running HIV/AIDS fundraiser and one of the city’s highest profile events. With a high-profile panel of honorary chairs, an influential group of donors, and a dedicated group of fundraising walkers, this year’s Walk promises to be one of the biggest and best yet. And CARES has set the bar high, announcing a goal of raising $240,000 to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Middle Tennessee.

Back in June, CARES announced that Grammy nominated and Dove Award winning country artist Ty Herndon, who famously came out of the closet last November, would be one of the event’s honorary co-chairs. In August, local broadcast personalities Jennifer Johnson and James “Dolewite” Raymer were added to the slate. Johnson is an Emmy and Associated Press Award winning journalist who anchors Channel 4’s news at 4 p.m. Dolewite is Program Director and afternoon drive host at WUBT, 101.1 The Beat.

Since coming out, Herndon has been quite active in the LGBT community, performing at Pride events and teaming up with a number of organizations. His Concert for Love and Acceptance on June 12 in Nashville was a groundbreaking event, bringing together artists and celebrities from all across America to support at-risk youth.

Herndon’s support for Nashville CARES is unwavering. “I've worked on and off with CARES for a long time,” Herndon said, “and we all know they are the top of the line at what they do, so it's such an honor to work with them. And after coming out in November, a lot of different opportunities came my way to work with different organizations and getting the call to do this special day was very cool for me and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Herndon was forging his career in a place and time rocked by the AIDS crisis, and that has left him personally devoted to the work. “I was starting to make records and tour honkytonks in Texas in the 1980s and 1990s,” Herndon reflected, “and unfortunately several great friends to HIV/AIDS in the early days. It was such a scary thing back then, especially being in country music and being in the closet and having friends who were battling HIV and AIDS, and for years having really good friends living with it. It’s something that has touched me personally more than once.”

Most of Herndon’s life has been spent in the closet, and from that vantage point he watched the epidemic evolve and the world change. A lot of that, he thinks, has been for the better. “People's minds and hearts have come a long way, because they’re willing to educate themselves now on what HIV is. Back in the early days, I remember there was so much fear around it. People actually thought you could contract the virus by drinking out of the same glass of water. You know that’s real fear that people had. I think that we're in a society today where there's still some of that, but things are getting better and moving forward. There are a lot of people living with HIV living perfectly normal lives out there and will live a full and awesome, so I think changing people’s hearts and minds by educating is very important.

Though there’s much he loves about CARES, the AIDS Walk holds a special place for Herndon because it brings visibility to the cause and helps in that process of changing hearts and minds. “All their fundraising efforts they do throughout the year and the lives that they touch are incredible. But the AIDS Walk is such a fun day and such an uplifting thing for Nashville. I love being a part of anything that goes out there to the community and just lifts people up and rescues. So I think that’s one of the things I love most about CARES.”

Herndon isn’t just supporting the event from the sidelines, either. He has started his own team, Ty’s Team. His goal is to raise $20,000 for Nashville CARES, and you can join his team when you register for the Walk if you like! “I have the best fans in the world and I hope they support me by joining my Nashville AIDS Walk team,” said Herndon.

With a great deal of enthusiasm, Herndon said he expects this year’s Walk to really show the world what Nashville is made of. “I think that Nashville has come such a long way in the past few years…. I'm expecting such a huge turnout for the AIDS Walk, and I'm expecting Nashville to show its heart on this day, like it’s doing right now. I am so impressed with our city. Especially this year, I'm so extremely proud of this opportunity.”

The event takes place on Saturday, October 3 at Public Square Park. Registration starts at 10:00 am and the walk starts at 11:00 am. According to the event’s website, CARES expects over 1,600 people to attend. Visitors can expect to find, in addition to the walk, a Community & Business Fair, entertainment and children's activities.

 

 

For additional information, or to register for the Walk, visit NashvilleAIDSWalk.com or call (615) 259-4866. For information on sponsoring the event, contact Topher McCune at CMcCune@NashvilleCARES.org.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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