Local Non-Profit Raises Awareness for HIV/AIDS

Community members are putting their best feet forward to help support ALFA to improve the lives of those infected with AIDS.

Saturday marks the second annual Hike for Hope, sponsored by Advancing Life Fighting AIDS, at the Catawba River Greenway in Morganton.

“The Greenway was an ideal setting in 2010,” said Rodney Tucker, ALFA executive director. “The riverside location and mid-spring weather really furthered the atmosphere of hope. We’re excited to bring people back this year to Burke County, which is one of ALFA’s largest service areas.”

Hike for Hope is an annual 2- or 4-mile hiking event that aims to increase awareness, prevention, and testing for HIV/AIDS, to raise funds for programs; and to increase the visibility of ALFA as an organization. This event is the largest awareness and fundraising event in the county, according to Rhonda Bonfield, development director.

Last year, more than 200 people participated in Hike for Hope, helping ALFA raise more than $20,000. This year, ALFA hopes to raise $35,000.

All funds help support prevention and education and medical management services at ALFA.

“The success of the first event was incredible,” said Bonfield.

“Awareness is needed for this event because the south has the largest number of cases of AIDS due to stigma and poor information. This event reaches a very broad group of people. It is family friendly and targets all age groups.”

ALFA is a non-profit United Way organization. The agency was organized as a grassroots effort in 1987 to provide support services to infected citizens with HIV/AIDS in Burke County. In 1989, Burke County provided funding for the non-profit organization. The organization serves nine counties, which include Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Lincoln, Wilkes and Watauga.

Education and prevention services provide clients with ALFA case members, who are available Monday through Friday to help clients find HIV friendly dentists, fill out forms for Medicare coverage, give information about home repair grants and find support to counter discrimination against HIV positive persons. Case management services create a care plan for clients that establish medical and dental care, referrals to mental health professionals and assistance with obtaining medications and getting to medical appointments. The care plan also provides clients with educational and social activities, grocery vouchers, food pantry items and limited emergency financial assistance.

There are no registration fees for day trippers, 2-mile hikers, power hikers or 4-mile hikers. Hikers who donate or raise a minimum of $25 will receive an event T-shirt provided by CBS Sports.

Christina Kliesch, co-chair of the planning committee for Hike for Hope, is responsible for making improvements and promoting the event.

She has been a volunteer at the event for almost two years and will be attending this year’s event.

“It is really good to feel like I am a part of the community – I am new to the area,” said Kliesch.

Kliesch said she hopes to see a turnout of more than 300 people and raise twice the amount of money as they did at last year’s event.

“(Hike for Hope) is a great show of support for people in the community, who are infected with HIV/AIDS,” said Kliesch.