AIDS Walk Raises $1.9 Million for Research

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Byline: Bill O'Brien Daily Herald Staff Writer

For some people like Sarah Szopinski, there were very personal and emotional reasons for walking in Sunday's AIDS Walk in Chicago.

The Palatine resident lost her 31-year-old son, Dr. Robert Emmens, in January to the devastating disease.

But on Sunday near Monroe Harbor, she participated with an estimated 75,000 people who turned out for the 10-kilometer walk to raise money for AIDS research.

"The disease is something that is a leprosy of the '90s, and we have a culture that prefers to keep their hands off of it," Szopinski said as she walked along the sun-drenched lakeshore with other participants.

AIDS Walk Chicago, the Midwest's largest Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome fund-raiser, continues to gain in popularity, as it raised more than $1.9 million in the seventh annual event - exceeding last year's nearly $1.7 million, said Jennifer Hauser Bragg, an AIDS Walk Chicago spokeswoman.

Szopinski said the event raises awareness about the disease, which some mistakenly believe strikes only the gay community. Many participants, like Kim Crawford of Mount Prospect, walked to get people to reject those same rumors.

Too many people believe the disease is only spread by casual sexual contact and that only homosexuals can contract it, the 16-year-old student said.

"We came to make people more aware of AIDS and to help get rid of some of the myths associated with it," Crawford said.

The Hersey High School student and some of her fellow students make a routine of helping to eradicate those myths through a school club called Stop HIV, named for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that causes AIDS. …