Regina Gazelle Wells, who overcame serious struggles with substance abuse to become a committed trans activist and advocate for trans individuals affected by homelessness, substance abuse and HIV, and Elijah Palles, whose drag stage name is Eddie Broadway and is Mr. Trans USA 2020, will co-chair AIDS Walk Arizona & 5K Fun Run scheduled Feb. 19, 2022 at Tempe Beach Park, 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway.
AIDS Walk Arizona, Aunt Rita’s Foundation’s largest single event raising funds and awareness of HIV and AIDS, raised more than $150,000 in 2021 for Aunt Rita’s 14 partner agencies.
“Having Regina and Elijah as co-chairs is important on so many levels,” said Aunt Rita’s Foundation Executive Director Jimmy Thomason. “First, the trans community and the people living with HIV/AIDS, a disease that impacts every segment and demographic of our society, have something in common: we never thought we’d have a ‘happily ever after.’ This is When. We. Rise. Second, of course, because they’re both incredibly fun!”
Regina, a trailblazer and trans activist representing the LGBTQ+ community whose stage name is Regina Gazelle, has been a long-time supporter of Aunt Rita’s efforts to raise funds.
An Arizona resident since 1975, she has been trans since she was 14. Today, at 63 and 24 years clean and sober, she has dedicated her life to maximum service to others. Regina, who is HIV negative, started one of the Valley’s first all-transgender recovery halfway houses. Among her numerous awards was being the first transgender woman awarded Echo Magazine’s Woman of the Year. She also was a former Grand Marshall of PRIDE.
During his ten years as a drag entertainer in the Valley, Elijah has held a number titles including Mister Phoenix Pride 2014, Mister USofA MI 2017 and Emperor to Reign XIII of the Imperial Court of Arizona, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to unite the LGBTQ+ and heterosexual communities through charitable fund raising through 65 chapters in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Outside of performing, Elijah is a mental health therapist primarily assisting the transgender/gender non-conforming community with their transitions and mental health concerns. He is newly diagnosed with HIV.
AIDS Walk Arizona and 5K Fun Run will begin with registration at 1 p.m. The Walk starts at 3 p.m. at Tempe Beach Park. The course will take walkers and runners across the Mill Avenue Bridge and entertainment will be provided throughout the route. Additional details are being finalized and will be announced in the coming months, including for an after party.
Walkers can begin registering in the fall as individuals, as a team or make donations to walkers to help reach fundraising goals by visiting www.auntritas.org. The official 2022 AIDS Walk Arizona website will go live in September.
Stay tuned for more information about AIDS Walk Arizona in the coming months.