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September 22, 2014

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Fundraisers:

(Super)heroes, celebrities join forces to raise money for AIDS organization

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Yasmina Chavez

The “I Walk For” stage banner filled with red ribbons is seen during the 2013 Aids Walk held at UNLV, Sunday, April 13, 2013. Participants were asked to write the name of the person they’re walking for on the red paper ribbons and place them on the banner.

2013 Aids Walk

Jer Roberson, left, and Josh James, right, with their dogs, from left: Euro, Bella, Randy and Ulu, at the 2013 Aids Walk held at UNLV, Sunday, April 13, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Thousands of people gathered at the UNLV campus Sunday to walk for AIDS. Some were there to help build awareness for the disease or raise money for people who are most in need, and others gathered to remember those who have been lost to the illness.

This year's walk, the 23rd annual, was organized by Aid for AIDS of Nevada and wound about 3 miles through and around campus. The walk had more than 9,000 participants last year and raised more than $450,000

Denise Amlie lost her brother to AIDS in 2003. When she walked in her brother’s memory for the first time, she was alone. But she no longer walks alone. This year she gathered a squad of followers — just under 20 people — to help raise money for people who can’t afford the medicines or treatments needed to battle the disease.

“We have fun, but we remember those we’ve lost to AIDS,” she said.

Clad in a cape and costume resembling Robin, Batman’s famous sidekick, Amlie stood in a circle of colleagues, old and young, all dressed as superheroes.

And the money they’ve raised has been heroic. At more than $12,000, Amlie and her crew — known as Team Winos — raised more than anybody at Sunday’s AIDS walk. The money caps a year of yard sales and donation dinners and pushed the group's total collection over its 10-year life to more than $150,000.

“We do anything short of sell our bodies for AFAN, but I’m 60, so I don’t think anyone would want mine,” Amlie said with a laugh.

It’s all about helping those who have the illness and teaching those who don’t that it could happen to them.

“Anyone can have AIDS and everyone should be tested,” she said.

Antioco Carillo, the executive director of Aid for AIDS of Nevada, echoed that message. He said people still think AIDS is confined to the poor and homosexual communities.

“They think it’s curable — which it’s not — and they don’t think it’s going to happen to them,” he said.

The medications available can help people live long and more normal lives, he said, but they don’t work for everyone.

“We want to believe that HIV doesn’t kill people because we don’t want to talk about death,” he said.

Dozens of local celebrities, including the casts from "Rock of Ages," "Thunder from Down Under" and "Fantasy" came to the event to show their support for the organization. Penn and Teller made an appearance.

“It’s not about medicines or research, although those things are important, too. It’s about making money to help people,” Penn Jillette said.

A sea of people seemed to rock back and forth as the music shook the air and the walk came closer to launch.

Now that the walk is over, when Amlie wakes up Monday morning, she’ll be thinking of next year. There’s lots of fundraising to do between now and then, but she’ll have plenty of help. Amlie won’t be alone.

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