— Reported by Lindsay Tuman

Runners take your mark! The races were off this weekend with AthHalf and the Athens AIDS walk. Thousands of people put on their running shoes and sprinted all for a good cause. The streets were flooded with runners this weekend. There were two different races for two different causes. AthHalf which proceeds the nonprofit AthFest Educates, and AIDS Athens Walk, which helps those affected by AIDS in Northeast Georgia. 

This is the fourth year for AthHalf and executive director Jared Bailey says, “I think it’s grown as an event, not just in number of people.”

The goal is to raise money for AthFest Educates, a non profit focused on promoting art and music for children in Athens. They also hope to promote the city and culture around Athens. That’s where the route comes in.   Runners start in downtown Athens and end in between the hedges, where they can even see their face on the jumbotron.

Bailey says you can see most of the almost one hundred thousand dollars raised in public schools around Clarke County. AthFest and the school district have partnered up so they are able to donate instruments to orchestras and after school programs, as well as provide funding for arts based field trips, and even give money to some kids lucky enough to go to music camps.

The main goal for AthensAIDS walk is a little different though. Board member Yancey Gulley says, “It’s about giving visibility to this cause. There’s such a stigma around people living with HIV and AIDS.”

The money raised from the AthensAIDS walk helps provide HIV testing to people in the community, as well as raise awareness about HIV and AIDS throughout Northeast Georgia. Gulley says the money raised by the walk, which was close to twenty five thousand dollars, helps provide money for housing, food, and transportation for those living with the disease.

The runners this weekend might not have known that running for 13.1 miles was really just the first of many steps on the trail for helping the community — in so many ways.

And the plans are already starting again for next year. The coordinator for AthHalf tells me that it’s quite a process run with mostly volunteers, so most people have gone back to their real jobs, but he’s already looking at next year. And AIDSAthens is also back to work finising plans on their next project, a fundraiser occurring in February. They will pick up planning the next AIDSAthens walk in about two months.

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