It was through her brother’s involvement in AIDS advocacy that Jeannine Murtaugh first became aware of the rising rate of HIV/AIDS infection. She quickly joined the effort by participating in a walk sponsored by AIDS Community Resources in Syracuse. Recognizing her dedication, the organization asked her to host an event in the Mohawk Valley — and that “event” has become what is today’s annual Hamilton AIDS Hike for Life.
As associate director of the Maurice Horowitch Career Center until her retirement this year, Murtaugh has easily connected with students interested in helping to raise awareness. Beginning 13 years ago with the help of that year’s senior class president, Murtaugh knit together support for an HIV/AIDS funding and awareness walk from both the campus and local communities. In that time, the walk has raised more than half a million dollars.
Today’s 5K hike through the Glen and around campus is its usual energizing, fun and inspiring event, with live music and activities such as face painting and massages, but there is a serious side. Murtaugh makes a point of standing near the end of the hike, where she can see every participant walk by. “I’m all jazzed up,” she says. “When I say to people, ‘Thank you for walking,’ they say, ‘We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.’”