With help from Binghamton University students and a fierce new obstacle course named The Punisher, the 16th annual AIDS Walk surpassed expectations.
The walk exceeded its original fundraising goal of $50,000, raising $52,000 for the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP).
Mary Kaminsky, the director of development at STAP, talked about the difficulty of The Punisher.
“Getting through the Punisher is not going to be easy,” she said. “It’s really going to challenge every muscle you have.”
This was the second year the AIDS Walk was held in the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex, because of difficulties that were encountered outside during previous AIDS walks. This year, the AIDS walk featured a 5k run and walk, two obstacle courses for adults and children, arts and crafts, food and music.
Phil Lessina of Johnson City volunteered at the walk by doing balloon art for the children.
“The dome makes it much better because you don’t have to worry about that dog-gone wind blowing around,” Lessina explained.
STAP offers free services for eight counties: Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Tioga and Tompkins.
“A lot of organizations will just give you literature,” Lessina said. “They don’t sit down and talk to you one on one.”
Although this was the second year that the program featured an obstacle course, Colin Earl of Binghamton said that this year’s obstacle course was better designed and added to the AIDS Walk with the addition of jump-roping, an abdominal roller and spider maze.
“The course doesn’t feel as cramped as it did last year,” Earl said. “I’m glad to see that it’s expanded from when it was just the walk.”
The enhanced obstacle course also attracted Tom McCoy of Binghamton, who trains for obstacle courses for fitness reasons.
“It’s a great cause; it helps us and helps them,” McCoy said.
While most of the locals participated in activities, the majority of BU students worked as volunteers and helped facilitate the event. Cara Burney, a senior majoring in psychology, helped supervise the “Sled Dawg” portion of the obstacle course, where participants had to drag a metal sled bar back and forth.
“It’s surprisingly harder than it looks,” Burney said. “People have been going half-way and then stopping to take a break.”
Participants raced across the AstroTurf field in pairs to overcome each obstacle course and were greeted with a bottle of water and dog tag that said, “I punished The Punisher” at the finish line.
“I got through that finish line so fast, I just wanted that jug of water,” Earl said.
The AIDS Walk was hosted by The Southern Tier AIDS Program on Sunday in the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex. STAP hopes to continue and keep on improving the AIDS Walk in order to spread AIDS awareness.
“Every year this gets a little bigger,” Kaminsky said. “This would not have been possible without BU students.”