Calvin Cheng had to fight his urge to run as he trekked all 10 kilometers of Sunday’s AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
“It was kind of like peeling a Band-Aid off really slowly,” the veteran cross-country enthusiast and fourth-year Spanish and linguistics student said of resisting his desire to sprint the race. “Since we were walking, the pain just lasted longer.”
Cheng conquered the race alongside celebrity supporters, such as “Project Runway” star Jack Mackenroth, and his Delta Lambda Phi fraternity brothers.
Around 30,000 participants got donations from family and friends to walk around West Hollywood Park, generating $2.8 million for AIDS Project Los Angeles and a handful of other local AIDS support organizations, said Gabriel McGowan, director of communications for AIDS Project Los Angeles.
Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, launched a chapter at UCLA in 1987 and currently boasts 11 Bruin members.
Cheng, the group’s philanthropy chair, said the fraternity nominated AIDS Walk as its fall philanthropy event because of the cause’s relevance in the gay community.
“Being in this fraternity, AIDS has been a part of our history,” Cheng said. “It’s important to us to debunk any stereotypes about AIDS and eradicate the virus so we can move past the dark period in our community’s history.”
To further their vision, the fraternity traditionally raises funds and dances for 26 hours at UCLA’s Dance Marathon, an event held each February to raise funds for pediatric AIDS support groups.
Members of UCLA’s Gamma Rho Lambda sorority hiked beside the fraternity at AIDS Walk. The sorority also works to encourage AIDS prevention.
Gamma Rho Lambda is UCLA’s sorority for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersexed and allied students.
Last year, the squad co-sponsored an extravaganza in Saxon Suites with music, free condoms and silly sex toy giveaways to encourage students to practice safe sex.
With a goal of reaching beyond their group to local LGBT youth, Gamma Rho Lambda is looking to create a suicide hotline for LGBT teens and has spent time talking to high school students about the hardships of living with their sexuality.
“We want to bring knowledge to people,” said Darlene Tran, a member and third-year psychology and sociology student. “These issues are so important in our community.”
Delta Lambda Phi has joined the effort on a local level by also working with the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team.
Fraternity president and fourth-year English student Armando Huipe has incorporated the intervention team’s AIDS awareness workshops into the fraternity’s new-member education program.
He said the workshops foster safe-sex practices and open doors to talk about a typically taboo subject.
The L.A.-based team is an AIDS Walk beneficiary, which made the fraternity brothers proud to walk.
“We started feeling stiff around mile five,” Huipe said. “But we made it through. It was, of course, for a great cause.”