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Op-ed: A Call for Innovation in HIV/AIDS Fund-raising

Op-ed: A Call for Innovation in HIV/AIDS Fund-raising


AIDS Project Los Angeles announces Concrete Hero Urban Obstacle Challenge as one way of rallying new support.

This July in downtown Los Angeles, HIV/AIDS fund-raising will take on a bold new look. Activists will leap over cars, swing above oozing tar pits, and scale over signs as they raise awareness and funding to help fight the epidemic.

It's all part of the newest fund-raiser at AIDS Project Los Angeles, a thrilling and innovative event called Concrete Hero - The Ultimate Urban Obstacle Challenge. It's a crucial step in the right direction and a move toward HIV fund-raising efforts that will capture the attention of supporters, new and veteran alike.

More than 30 years in, we still face an evolving disease that evades our best efforts to find a cure or vaccine. Our care, prevention, and advocacy work must be nimble to keep pace, but so must our fund-raising initiatives.

A changing media landscape brings unprecedented opportunity to spotlight our cause. Among supporters both existing and new, we must offer exciting and engaging ways to raise funds, while keeping a sharp eye on cost and return on our investment.

That's what makes Concrete Hero so compelling - it's the future of fund-raising, and it's happening now.

We've specifically designed the event to be a fun, urban-themed obstacle challenge with wide appeal. With more than 10 exhilarating obstacles along a 5K course in downtown Los Angeles, before ending with an urban-themed block party, Concrete Hero is about being a hero in your own city. Participants will raise vital funds for APLA and come together with family, friends and colleagues for a fun city adventure around a single common cause: To help improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles.

Designed to be "very L.A.," Concrete Hero will take place at L.A. Live July 15 and route participants through the streets and alleyways of downtown Los Angeles. It will incorporate a mix of iconic Los Angeles landmarks, which are replicated as obstacles along the route. Participants will tackle the course in heats and leap over parked cars in a massive "Carmageddon" pile-up with blaring horns, music, and other distractions as they make their way through. Participants will scale a mock "Hollywood Sign" and even traverse a "Tar Pits."

Everyone from gym junkies to families and people of all ages can register. Participants can choose to race in the chip-timed 5K Competitive Challenge or take on the 2.5K Fun Run, which has a range of tamer obstacles like the "LAX Bag Grab" or "Shopping Cart Shuffle." I'll be racing right alongside you in the 5K Competitive Challenge.

Money raised through Concrete Hero is vital to our efforts at APLA. It will be put to use immediately, powering services like our Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries, which distribute more than 115,000 bags of groceries to people facing HIV/AIDS and hunger in Los Angeles and our APLA Dental Services, which offers more than 11,500 no- and low-cost dental procedures to people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County.

We have high hopes for success in year 1 and have set an achievable fund-raising minimum of just $400 per person. Since launching the initiative, we're seeing families, corporate teams, and individuals from all walks of life registering each day.

I can confidently say that Concrete Hero will re-engage a diverse range of APLA supporters, and the effort will benefit Los Angeles far beyond the funds raised by this July. This is effectively the future of fund-raising, and it's starting right here in Los Angeles.

So join us now! Rally your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to register today.

CRAIG E. THOMPSON is the executive director of APLA. To register for Concrete Hero, visit or call 323-462-HERO (4376).

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Craig E. Thompson