WILTON MANORS – On Saturday, over 2,000 participants are expected to take part in the World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil, which organizers say is one of the nation’s largest, commencing with a participants line up at 6:30 p.m. inside Hagen Park (2020 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors, behind City Hall), with the walk beginning promptly at 7 p.m.
The organizers will supply candles for the walk and vigil, and they have requested that participants wear red to signify their support for the event and those living with HIV/AIDS. They also request that businesses on Wilton Drive decorate their windows and storefronts with red fabric and other materials.
Terry DeCarlo, Director of Development for Broward House, Broward County’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization, noted that alterations to the 2012 walk in Wilton Manors include “the change of the route to encompass all of Wilton Drive.”
As part of the commemoration, the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) will display a “paintable” fire truck on Wilton Drive, at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, beginning at 3 p.m. The fire truck is dedicated to those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS, and guests are invited to paint messages of hope, support, and remembrance on the vehicle’s sides. Officials say BSO’s air division will provide a helicopter to take part in an aerial salute.
Said DeCarlo: “Speakers in the park include Rabbi Noah Kitty [of Congregation Etz Chaim], Pastor Leslie Tipton [of Church of the Holy Spirit Song], [Pride Center executive director] Robert Boo, [Broward House CEO] Stacy Hyde, [singer and television host] Michelle Visage, [comedian] Wanda Sykes,” and “performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus and David Meulemans.”
World AIDS Day was the first organized global health commemoration, held each year on December 1. Since 1988, the event has drawn worldwide attention to the fight against HIV, allowing people all over the world to show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Like many of the participants in this year’s vigil, DeCarlo has personal reasons to be involved. “I was part of ACT UP [the international advocacy group formed in 1987 by Larry Kramer and other AIDS activists] back in the 80s, and realized that nothing was being done [in South Florida] to commemorate World AIDS Day, and to remember the lives of those we have lost,” he recalls, “so I just lined up all the sponsors and made it happen.”
DeCarlo also noted that the vigil is truly non-profit. “No one makes a cent off of this event, and it is free to the public.”