USS Angeles steps forward at AIDS Walk

By Fleet Capt. Dave Mason
LOS ANGELES — A mariachi singer stood as sunlight outlined his body.
Then came his rich voice.
Dressed in a traditional white outfit, the musician held his trumpet at his side and sang a ballad in Spanish on a street corner in downtown Los Angeles. A small group of AIDS Walk Los Angeles participants stopped along the 6.2-mile route to listen. They took out their phones to get photos and videos of the singer and his band.
Entertainment was emphasized Oct. 20 at the walk, where fellow USS Angeles member Kathy Carder and I encountered many surprises.
We saw drummers, a cappella choirs (including one group in the middle of the street) and cheerleaders creating human pyramids. At one point, young people in costumes stood on big balls and stilts.
The entertainment got an early start during the opening ceremony in a park near City Hall, where the crowd of more than 9,000 people heard songs by Frenchie Davis of NBC’s “The Voice” and other vocalists.
One singer’s rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” stirred up the crowd so much that a group of young people jumped up and down near Kathy and me.
Further inspiration came when U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, went to the podium and emphasized her longtime support for AIDS Walk Los Angeles. The audience also heard from the two Craigs — Craig Thompson, the APLA Health CEO, and Craig Miller, the walk’s founder.
Other speakers varied from Jai Rodriguez of Bravo’s original “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” to local KABC-TV anchor Elena Leyva.
Then Sheldon Cooper’s mom went to the microphone.
Zoe Perry, who plays the future physicist’s mother on CBS’ “Young Sheldon,” offered us what she called motherly advice. Ultimately, it was about encouraging the walkers to put their best feet forward.
The USS Angeles team did its part by raising more than $600 for APLA Health, the Los Angeles nonprofit helping AIDS and HIV-positive patients.
Overall, AIDS Walk Los Angeles raised $1.5 million this year. Since the first walk in 1985, the event has raised more than $88 million.
Donations are still being accepted through Nov. 15. Go to secure.aidswalkla.org/ussangeles.
During this year’s walk, Kathy and I saw teams representing movie and TV studios, corporations, colleges and other organizations. The walk featured participants of all ages, and young volunteers stood along the route and cheered for the participants.
Other volunteers walked up to us with bottled water, fruit, energy bars and, at the end of the walk, cups of vanilla ice cream with wood spoons.
Kathy, a retired nurse, and I had a fun chat as we walked past the tall buildings of downtown Los Angeles. As we turned one corner, we saw the sun reflect dramatically on the special surface of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The sunlight struck that building with the same brilliance as the hope brought by AIDS Walk Los Angeles.

A mariachi singer entertains participants in AIDS Walk Los Angeles. (Photos by Dave Mason)
Kathy Carder attends the opening ceremony at AIDS Walk Los Angeles. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Dave Mason enjoys the opening ceremony at AIDS Walk Los Angeles. (Photo by Kathy Carder)
A crowd walks in AIDS Walk Los Angeles. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Zoe Perry, who plays Sheldon Cooper’s mother on CBS’ “Young Sheldon,” gives an inspirational talk at AIDS Walk Los Angeles. (Photo by Dave Mason)
U.S. Rep. Maxine Walters, D-Los Angeles, encourages participants to put their best feet forward at the walk. (Photo by Dave Mason)
AIDS Walk Los Angeles participants go past the Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Photo by Dave Mason)
More than 9,000 AIDS Walk participants take to the streets of downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Costumed performers entertain AIDS Walk participants. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Drummers perform along the AIDS Walk route. (Photo by Dave Mason)

Dave Mason

Commanding Officer, USS Angeles NCC-71840