For nearly three decades, AIDS Walk San Francisco has served as the definition of a community coming together united behind one cause: ending the AIDS epidemic. It’s hard to find two people more committed to the cause than Marie Crinnion and Richie McAllister. For them, AIDS Walk is deeply personal.
Richie grew up in New York. His parents were using heroin in the 1980s, before needle exchanges began to operate in urban centers across the country; both died of AIDS-related illnesses. Richie was just a young teenager when he lost his parents and went to live under the care of his grandparents.
Around the same time, in the early 1990s, Marie was living in San Francisco. She and a friend decided to start volunteering with Project Open Hand, delivering meals to people living with HIV and AIDS.
“For me, it’s about more than just bringing a meal to someone in need—it’s about bringing human contact into their lives,” says Marie. “It’s a chance to talk with people and ask how they’re doing. It was very hard in those early years because we were losing so many people to AIDS. But we kept going because we wanted to help as many people as possible and make their lives comfortable.”
When Marie met Richie in San Francisco, they started delivering meals together. For 22 years, she’s maintained the same delivery route in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood, experiencing sadness when people die and joy when others’ health improves.
“The people I help in the Tenderloin are certainly healthier and living longer these days, and that’s very positive and uplifting,” says Marie. “But this disease is not over. And particularly for the population we serve in the Tenderloin, many of them have physical and psychological issues that impact their health as well. Fighting HIV/AIDS is not as easy as saying, ‘We have medicine so people won’t die anymore.’ There are many people in our community who need a lot more services to address all their health needs.”
Marie has been participating in AIDS Walk San Francisco since 1989, and Richie since 2001. They understand the power the event has to change lives and improve health in our community. So they don’t just walk and ask friends for donations—they take their fundraising seriously, but they have a lot of fun doing it.
Each year, the couple hosts a huge party in their tiny backyard in San Francisco. For hours, they welcome guests into their home, serve food, provide entertainment (including musicians and comedians), and hold live and silent auctions. Virtually everything for the event is donated. Last year alone, Richie and Marie raised a whopping $25,375 for AIDS Walk San Francisco. To date, they’ve raised well over $100,000 to fight HIV/AIDS and expand care for all people living with the disease in our community.
“I grew up in San Francisco and I saw a lot of people die,” says Marie. “HIV/AIDS has had a huge impact on this city, so that’s what’s makes it close to home for me. And obviously for Richie, the disease hits home for him in a different way. That’s why we walk and raise funds.”
Richie and Marie are committed to walking every year, until there is no more need for AIDS Walk San Francisco.
“Being in Golden Gate Park for AIDS Walk San Francisco is such a great feeling of community,” Marie says. “There are people from all walks of life—even pets. It’s a wonderful feeling of all of San Francisco coming together to work toward a common goal that’s very important for our city: ending AIDS.”
Richie and Marie invite everyone to join them in Golden Gate Park on Sunday, July 21, for AIDS Walk San Francisco. Register today!
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