Jamaica Plain resident Cynthia Muñoz doesn’t have a personal connection with HIV. She is HIV negative. No one close to her has died of AIDS. And, at 26 years-old, she is much too young to have experienced the dark days of the epidemic when a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS was an all-but-guaranteed death sentence.
But Muñoz started walking for AIDS Action Committee's AIDS Walk & 5K Run when she began working at Boomerangs, AIDS Action Committee’s chain of thrift shops, which sell everything from clothing, furniture, and housewares to eclectic collectibles. “It was just sort of a fun thing to do with the other employees,” says Muñoz, who works at the Central Square Boomerangs. “But last year I got into a friendly competition with the other store manager. We both went out and tried to raise as much money as possible to outdo the other.”
Until last year, Muñoz raised just a few hundred dollars for each Walk, and then she did, indeed, set a personal record, raising more than $1,500 in 2011. “I launched a three-month campaign,” she says. “In the first month I asked for donations and I mailed a present to everyone who contributed.” Gifts included homemade baked goods, video mix tapes, and crocheted scarves.
In the second and third month, she emailed everyone in her contacts list and messaged all of her Facebook friends. Everyone got a personal message (“it wasn’t something that I copied and pasted,” she says) that included her pitch about raising money for AIDS Action Committee via the Walk.
What she learned is that people will donate if asked. And they are generous. “The first few years I was too nervous to ask people for money,” recalls Muñoz. “But once I decided to go for it, it really didn’t take much to get people to donate. I think people like to give and they liked that I asked them to give. It was pretty simple. I just spent a couple days sending out a bunch of emails and then got $1,000.”
This year, the Boomerangs Walk Team held a successful fundraiser at the Midway in Jamaica Plain. Muñoz and her fellow team members asked local businesses to donate items for a raffle. “Pretty much everyone has said ‘yes,’ so I think people are a lot more generous than one might assume,” reports Muñoz. “Even if people don’t give much, if you have a few hundred people and they give $10 it’s pretty good.”
As Muñoz’s fundraising prowess has grown over the years, so has her commitment to the cause. “I never thought that AID was done with or anything,” says Muñoz. “But I didn’t realize it was as big a problem as it still is. Working for AIDS Action and Boomerangs, I’ve seen what a broad spectrum of people HIV and AIDS impacts.”
She’s also seen how critical unrestricted funding is to AIDS Action Committee’s ability to do targeted, direct outreach—or, as Muñoz describes it, “risqué campaigns”—to those who are most vulnerable to HIV infection. “I didn’t realize before how important these funds were to allowing AIDS Action to do so much more,” she says.
As she gears up for another Walk with the Boomerangs team on June 3, Muñoz has two pieces of advice for others who are participating: “Know your HIV status and keep yourself informed about how transmission actually works. And don’t be afraid to ask for donations!”
The 27th annual AIDS Walk & 5K Run draws 10,000 to 15,000 participants and is AIDS Action’s largest annual fundraiser. WCVB-TV StormTeam 5 meteorologist David Brown will emcee the event, which also includes a Wellness Festival and the Larry Kessler 5K run. The 5K run is a competitive, timed event, and is fully sanctioned by the USA Track & Field Association. The 6.2-mile AIDS Walk and the Larry Kessler 5K run will begin and end at the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston. Registration and check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. The Walk begins at 10 a.m.; the Larry Kessler run begins at 9:50 a.m. Participants can register for the AIDS Walk and 5K run at www.aidswalkboston.org. There is neither a registration fee nor a minimum funds raised requirement in order to participate.
Visit the AIDS Walk Boston & 5K Run website for more information.