The first Seattle AIDS Walk raises $335,000 for AIDS treatment and education on September 27, 1987.

On September 27, 1987, more than 2,000 people walk 10 km in Seattle to raise funds for AIDS treatment and research. From Memorial Stadium, walkers descend Broad Street to Myrtle Edwards Park, loop through the park, and continue south on Alaskan Way to Spring Street. They return along Western Avenue to the Seattle Center for a free concert by local musical groups. “This is not a moral issue, but the most important health issue in the history of the world,” U.S. Representative Mike Lowry told the crowd about the growing AIDS epidemic. “Today we’re going to vote with our feet for the money the feds should provide. And we’ll keep voting until we get the money” (“AIDS Walkathon…”). The event raises over $335,000. Future AIDS Walks, held annually in September, will raise up to $1.5 million.

Walk for a cause

By the dawn of 1987, 168 people in King County had died of AIDS, and hundreds more had been diagnosed with HIV or were living with full-blown AIDS. When the city’s LGBTQ community gathered at Volunteer Park in June for the usually celebratory national celebration of Gay and Lesbian Pride, “amid the flamboyance there was the sobering reminder of the AIDS virus that brought drastic changes to gay lifestyles.Unable to walk, several people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome rode floats in the parade to raise awareness of the need for more federal research dollars and more support for those coping with the disease” (“Gay, Lesbian Pride Events…”) The following month in San Francisco, an estimated crowd of 5,000 people took part in AIDS Walk San Francisco, a 10-kilometer walk through across Golden Gate Park. Each participant was supported by sponsors who agreed to contribute $1 to $100 for every kilometer walked. The event raised more than $500,000.

Using the plan established in San Francisco, Boston and four other US cities, the Northwest AIDS Foundation announced in August that it would hold a similar walkathon in Seattle – billed as From All Walks of Life – “as a demonstration of the growing resolve of the public to curb the spread of AIDS.Proceeds here will be allocated to the foundation, Pike Place Market, Country Doctor Clinics and other agencies involved in helping AIDS patients and education programs. .. The Seattle walkathon is also significant, a foundation spokesperson said, because it receives co-sponsorship from such heavyweights as Pacific Northwest Bell, Seafirst and Washington Mutal Banks, Immunex, Northern Life Insurance. and others” (“Seattle Fund-Raiser…”).

Held under sunny skies on September 27, 1987, From All Walks of Life attracted over 2,000 attendees. The rally began at Memorial Stadium at 9 a.m. for pre-walk festivities that included music, guest speakers and a mass on-field aerobics class to warm up the marchers. Many wore costumes, including six walkers who took part in a long monorail and another dressed as the Space Needle.

The opening ceremony included remarks from Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, U.S. Representatives Mike Lowry and John Miller, Pacific Northwest Bell CEO Andy Smith, and several people with AIDS. Miller said it was “impossible to know too much about AIDS. The danger is in knowing too little” (“AIDS Walkathon…”). Smith received a standing ovation, as did Lowry, who denounced President Ronald Reagan’s characterization of AIDS as a moral issue. “It’s not a moral issue,” Lowry said, “but the most important health issue in the history of the world” (“AIDS Walkathon…”). Organizers dedicated the event to AIDS patient and activist Michael Otto, who had spent the previous four days undergoing treatment at a Swedish hospital and was discharged from hospital an hour before the walkathon. Otto, 33, managed to walk part of the route in his weakened condition and hiked the rest in a van. He died three months later, one of more than 100 King County residents to succumb to AIDS in 1987.

After returning to Memorial Stadium, attendees were treated to a free three-hour concert featuring Annie Rose and the Thrillers, the Total Experience Choir, the Caribbean Super Stars Steel Band and several other musical acts, as well as a performance of the Seattle chapter. of the Tacky Tourists Club, a satirical theater troupe. By all accounts, the event was a resounding success. According to the final tally announced at the end of October, the 2,000 walkers were supported by contributions from 26,000 people who gave more than $335,000. In December, walkathon organizer Patricia Benavidez received a Humanitarian Award from the Seattle Chapter of the United Nations Association for her efforts.

A lasting legacy

Building on the success of its first AIDS Walk, the Northwest AIDS Foundation made it an annual event, still held each year in September. “Initially, the cost of mounting the march took a third of NWAF funds, a huge risk for a young organization. The risk paid off. Each September, business and political leaders joined media personalities and walking teams from the many communities affected by AIDS The fifth annual walk, the event drew 13,000 affected people to the streets and raised $1.2 million for 30 organizations providing AIDS education and services In addition to the highly visible Walk, other local fundraisers have provided much-needed funds for AIDS services, including Jars in Bars, the Bunny Brigade, and the perennial and popular events of the Tacky Tourist Club” (“A story…”).

The AIDS Walk reached its peak in 1991 when it raised $1.5 million, after which donations gradually dwindled in subsequent years as the medical community advanced treatments for HIV and AIDS. AIDS. Nonetheless, as of 2022, the AIDS Walk has remained a major fundraiser for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, which formed in 2001 (when the Northwest AIDS Foundation merged with the Chicken Soup Brigade), and a rally important in remembering the more than 40 million people around the world who have lost their lives to the disease.

After Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced an “End AIDS Washington” campaign in December 2014, Lifelong renamed the event End AIDS Walk Seattle. The 30th annual walk was held in September 2016 at Volunteer Park and raised approximately $250,000. When the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted large in-person gatherings, the 2020 and 2021 marches were held virtually. In May 2021, Lifelong collaborated with similar agencies in San Francisco, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Austin, Texas to stage AIDS Walk: Live at Home, a TV and streaming show featuring a range of musicians , actors, authors and activists. “In Washington State and across the country, we continue to see Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities disproportionately impacted by new HIV cases,” said Claire Neal, CEO of Lifelong. “We are thrilled to work hand-in-hand with like-minded organizations across the country by collaborating on AIDS Walk: Live at Home” (“Seattle AIDS Walk Joins…”).


“A History of HIV/AIDS,” AIDS Memorial Pathway website accessed September 29, 2022 (; Kaylee Osowski, “Seattle’s AIDS Walk Reaches 30 Years With Health for the Living and Hope for a Cure,” September 20, 2016, Capitol Hill Seattle blog accessed September 29, 2022 ( seattle-aids-walk-reachs-30-years-with-health-for-the-living-and-hope-for-a-cure/); Don Tewkesbury, “AIDS Walk Raises $250,000,” Seattle Post Intelligence, September 28, 1987, p. A-1; Mary Barouh, “Gay, Lesbian Pride events attract 12,000 people”, Seattle weather, June 29, 1987, p. B-1; “Seattle Fund-Raiser — Pledge Walk will boost AIDS research”, Same., August 24, 1987, p. AT 12 ; Richard Seven, “AIDS fighters come from all walks of life”, Same., September 28, 1987, p. C-3; “Seattle AIDS Walk Joins AIDS Walks Across America for ‘AIDS Walk: Live at Home’ May 16,” May 6, 2021, Lifelong website accessed September 20, 2022 ( /5/6/seattle-aids-walk-join-aids-walks-across-america-for-aids-walk-live-at-home-a-blockbuster-television-and-streaming-event-may-16).

Licence: This essay is distributed under a Creative Commons license which encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit must be given to both and the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more information. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies only to text and not to images. For more information on individual photos or images, please contact the source listed in the image credit.

Major support for provided by:
Washington State | Patsy Bullit Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum of History and Industry | 4Culture (King County Accommodation Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Fishing Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, other public and private sponsors and visitors like you

Comments are closed.