Honoring a Lost Son at the AIDS Walk

  • Mazzoni Center LGBT AIDS Walk Philly HIV Care and services

Every year AIDS Walk Philly gives us an opportunity to meet face to face with many of the people who are impacted by our work – people who sign up to walk as individuals or in teams to help raise money and show their support for Mazzoni Center.  It is always inspiring to hear people’s stories, and learn more about their reasons for doing the walk.  But for the past two years one team in particular has provided us with an especially poignant reminder of the impact of our work.  

When we opened up team registrations for AIDS Walk in the fall of 2014, we received a message from Cathy Kurz of Williamstown, New Jersey, who wrote:  “I would like to walk in honor of my son Jeffrey who passed in August 2013 from HIV/AIDS.”  She explained that Jeffrey had been a patient at Mazzoni Center for years, and that she wanted to give back to the place that had cared for him throughout his battle with the illness.     

“I could never thank everyone at Mazzoni enough for all the help they gave my son when he needed it the most.  Everyone there did whatever they could to help him and you all have a special place in my heart,” Cathy said.  

In the past two years Team Jeffrey has raised over $1,500 in support of Mazzoni Center’s programs and services for people living with HIV.  And beyond their fundraising success, the impact their group had on staff and other walkers was significant.  

“It's always a great time and an honor to walk for Mazzoni Center,” Cathy says.

In addition to AIDS Walk Philly, Cathy and her family and friends have participated in AIDS Walk events in Atlantic City and in Orlando, where many of Jeffrey’s friends live.  “What motivates me is knowing that I am honoring my son's memory and enjoying time with friends and family all while raising funds to help fight HIV/AIDS. It's such a great feeling and we hope to make a difference for someone,” she says.  

Reflecting on Cathy and Jeffrey’s stories, Mazzoni CEO Nurit Shein says: “We are grateful to all the individuals and teams who participate in AIDS Walk Philly every year, but to meet someone like Cathy Kurz and hear her story is a powerful reminder of why we are here, and why the work we do truly matters.”

Despite the pain of her loss, Cathy was upbeat and determined as she stepped out onto the Ben Franklin Parkway on Sunday, October 18 of this year with thousands of fellow walkers.  “Although I am heart broken and miss my son terribly, I feel this helps me,” she says, adding that “now I’d like to help other people with their fight.”

Looking back on her son’s legacy, she reflects: “I would want Jeffrey to be remembered as he was: fun-loving, witty, spontaneous, carefree and despite his best efforts to conceal it, loving and devoted to his family. He always lived his life as he wanted, even a little too much at times. But, he had enough fun for five lifetimes -- something we all could afford to learn from now and then.  We miss you, Jeff!”

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