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B’ville falls turn red this week in recognition of ACR fundraiser

— Educating our youth.

For 20 years, this has been the primary goal of AIDS Community Resources, specifically the organization’s Teen AIDS Task Force, which has reached 5,572 young people in the nine-county coverage area including Onondaga County since inception. To continue efforts, ACR aims to raise $220,000 for the organization’s 20th annual fundraising event, the AIDS Walk/Run held this Sunday at Beaver Lake Nature Center.

“The AIDS Walk/Run began in 1993 and has always taken place at Beaver Lake Nature Center. It was originally going to be at Onondaga Lake Park, but flooding was very bad that year and we moved to Beaver Lake at the last minute. It was like coming home. What a wonderful location,” said Jean Kessner, the media and community relations person for ACR.

The first years of the event, participants were those who had been affected by AIDS, as well as their families and loved ones, Kessner said. Now the event draws those same families, as well as professionals, educators and businesses including Empower Federal Credit Union, which joined as the title sponsor allowing the event to grow “exponentially” over the years.

“One hundred percent of the money raised stays in Central New York to benefit ACR’s youth HIV/STD prevention programs and client support services,” Kessner said, adding that only 3 percent of the billions of dollars spent on AIDS in the United States is allocated to prevention programs, so it is up to individual communities to provide outreach.

And it’s not just about fundraising.

“The AIDS Walk/Run means much more to us than just raising the money we need to run our youth prevention programs,“ Kessner said, adding it is the support and acceptance of those gathered that really matters. “In the 31 years of AIDS, it has certainly not always been that way, and we treasure the feeling.”

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