As participants in the 10th annual Utah AIDS Foundation Walk for Life fund-raiser crossed the finish line, some laid down on the lawn of the City/County Building to rest, some took an orange slice and a drink of water and others knelt in a silent moment of reflection for victims of AIDS.
Nearly 1,500 walkers took to the streets of downtown Salt Lake City Saturday morning for the 10K walk to raise money for the organization. The event is the foundation's largest fund-raising event of the year.Foundation director Barbara Shaw said the walk raises between $150,000 and $175,000 for the organization.
"This event has grown steadily for 10 years," Shaw said. "When we started this event 10 years ago, we thought and hoped we wouldn't be doing it today. This is one of those jobs you hope you work yourself out of."
The ceremonies took a solemn turn as volunteers unfolded new panels for the NAMES Project Quilt, a memorial to AIDS victims. Shaw said the quilt is made up of nearly 70,000 panels from families across the country and represents only 15 percent - 1,476 reported cases - of the HIV/AIDS victims in Utah.
"This (quilt) really makes you think of why you're here and that people die from this disease," said Lara Lockwood, one of the planners of the event.
In recent years, AIDS treatments have given those living with HIV/AIDS more hope that they can live healthier and longer lives, according to statistics from the UAF.
A strict regime of up to 22 pills taken at exact times daily are giving some people living with HIV/ AIDS a better life, the foundation's statistics state.
"We are far from the end of this epidemic," Shaw said. "We use this event for awareness for people to remember that this is still a very serious illness."
Claudia Oakes, who was one of nearly 200 volunteers at the event, has lived in Utah for four years and said she is impressed with how diversified the people of Utah are.
"People are touched by an event such as this," Oakes said. "There are people from all walks of life here today."
Emily Malouf, 20, Salt Lake City, was participating in the event in memory of close family members and friends who have AIDS. She said the Walk for Life was just one way she could show her support to an uncle that she didn't know very well.
"When my uncle was alive, I wasn't able to give him the support that he needed, so I wanted to do it through this," Malouf said. "While I was walking the course, all I could think about was all the love and support people are showing today. It's amazing to see this."