AIDS Walk Austin 2016 will be Becky Helton’s 28th year in a row to participate in the walk and…. she has each years’ shirts to prove it!
Becky was motivated to get involved with the first walk in 1988 as she was friends with Glenn Maxey, legislative aide. “If you knew Glenn Maxey, you did the Walk”. Maxey first became involved when a state legislator tried to pass a proposal to quarantine all AIDS patients. Maxey helped organize and defeat that proposal and in 1988 he became the first executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby (now Equality Texas). Becky knew she would be in for the long haul with Glenn’s urging and after reading a local article that really affected her. ““I didn’t know anyone personally who had AIDS, but I hated that people were getting sick and not getting help. There was so much stigma attached to the disease. People were being ostracized; I remember an article appeared locally that really affected me, about a woman working for the City who fell ill and was diagnosed with AIDS. When she returned to work, she found that her desk had been segregated from her co-workers. Back then, even fundraising for AIDS relief was stigmatized by the public.”
As this was in the early, pre-internet years, Becky prepared for the Walk by writing fundraising letters to friends at work and at her church. “People say it is hard to ask for money, but the way I see it, I’m not asking for me, I’m asking for people I love who are HIV+.” Nowadays, 28 years later, Becky’s friends know she will be asking them regularly to donate to the mission of AIDS services of Austin and they never fail to give. “If there were no ASA, where would the AIDS crisis be today in our community? How much worse? We are currently seeing a surge in the infection rate among young people, so we need to do even more—so that in another 28 years we are not still doing this. I don’t want to be doing the Walk in my eighties, although I will if the need is still there.”
We look forward to seeing Becky at the Walk on October 16th this year at Palm Park. “Make the world better, and you are part of it. I just want the world to be better, and I want that more than a new dress.”