Meet Betsy

Betsy Ann Drees has lived in San Francisco for nearly 40 years.  She used to own a jewelry store in the Castro neighborhood.  In the early days of the epidemic, her business partner died of AIDS.  It was a defining moment in her life.  His death made her want to do something, to give back to her community.  So year after year, she’s made her mark by participating in AIDS Walk San Francisco.

Betsy’s first AIDS Walk was in 1991.  She’s walked in every AIDS Walk since, and she’ll be back in Golden Gate Park on Sunday, July 17th to participate in her 20th walk.

“I have watched so many of my friends die since 1982,” says Betsy.  “I got tired of going to funerals, so instead I started participating in AIDS Walk to celebrate the lives of all the people I’ve lost.”

This year AIDS Walk celebrates its 25th anniversary.  Since the very beginning, the walk has played a critical role in saving lives, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, and making substantial progress in our prevention and care efforts.  Throughout its history, AIDS Walk has raised more than $76 million and has grown into the largest AIDS fundraising event in Northern California.

“Without the activism that inspired the first walk 25 years ago, and the continued commitment of thousands of walkers raising millions of dollars today, we would not be where we are in the battle against the disease,” says San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano.  “With each step in AIDS Walk, we are changing lives.”

Betsy is a prime example of how one person’s actions can change lives.  Since she started walking, she has raised more than $30,000.  She sees the impact of AIDS Walk first hand.  One of Betsy’s neighbors receives housing assistance from San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  She says, “help like that would not be possible without people like myself and so many others collecting money to make a difference in our community.”

“Every time I walk, I think about the people I’ve lost in my life, and all the people still living with HIV who I don’t get to see as much as I used to,” says Betsy.  “But every step we take in AIDS Walk is a step toward a cure."

Betsy loves the sense of community that AIDS Walk creates.  “People are just happy.  They’re just really happy to be doing this event.  Even if its foggy and misty, it's still inspiring to see all the people around you committed to one cause.”

Betsy has a message for anyone considering registering for this year’s AIDS Walk.  “Everybody can take one Sunday out of their year.  Come and have fun.  Walk to the beach and enjoy this incredible event.  Bring you dog, bring your best friend!” 

Betsy is now 63 years old and nothing is slowing her down.  “I’ve never seen anything as powerful as AIDS Walk.  I will continue to participate for as long as I can walk.”

Walk with Betsy! Register today at

Are you a long-time AIDSWalker? Or looking forward to your first? Tell us about it in the comments below...


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