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Hike to Heal will raise funds for AIDS programs

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By Sandy Barnes

Evergreen resident Rhonda Dern is organizing A Hike to Heal at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park on Sept. 21 to support organizations that help people affected by HIV and AIDS. 

"I'm trying to focus this hike on Colorado projects," Dern said.

Those who participate in the 3-mile hike, or donate to the event, will be assisting the efforts of the Center for the Church and Global AIDS, as well as the Phenomenal Women program of It Takes a Village, a group based in Denver.

While many events are for runners and other athletes, Dern said that she decided a hike in an Evergreen park would be a good way to raise funds.

"How about doing the Sisters trail to help our brothers?" Dern said she asked other members of the organization. 

"This will be the first rural Hike to Heal," she noted.

Evergreen friends Chris Schaefer and Joyce Becker are helping her organize the hike, said Dern. 

"I would like all the help I can get," she said.

As a nurse for many years, Dern said she became aware of the extent of the problem with HIV and AIDS, both in this country and globally. In the United States, more than 1 million people are infected with HIV, with 50,000 new cases each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

In impoverished countries, the incidence of HIV and AIDS is much higher, Dern said. 

Volunteer ambassadors with the Center travel at their own expense to places such as Kenya, India, South Africa and Malawi to help people with AIDS. 

Evergreen attorney Bill Graf is among those involved in the center's efforts, said Dern. He has helped raise $30,000 for the organization to purchase mosquito nets, water filters and condoms for people in Kenya, she said.

Don Messer, a retired doctor in Centennial who serves as executive director of the center, is in Kenya now helping to rebuild a school, Dern said.

Along with providing necessities, the organization also offers programs of education, prevention and treatment.

"We can empower women in particular by education," she said.

The center also focuses on addressing the stigma that can be attached to HIV and AIDS, Dern said.

"AIDS is a virus, just like any other virus," she remarked. 

However, the disease affects both the person who has acquired it and those around him, Dern said.

Those who would like to participate in A Hike to Heal may register on the Center for the Church and Global AIDS website at http://churchandglobalaids.org. A donation of $30 or more allows hikers, and virtual hikers, the opportunity to receive a T-shirt, as long as supplies last.

The hike begins at 9 a.m. Sept. 21 at the upper parking lot of Alderfer/Three Sisters Park on Buffalo Park Road. Participants will begin at the Silver Fox Trail and continue to the Sisters Trail.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.