Francine Goldstein, of Merrick, has already marked many milestones in the journey that has become her life’s work. Just two years ago, she surpassed her lifetime goal of raising $500,000 for AIDS research. This year she is asking for the community’s help once more as she participates in her 30th AIDS Walk.
“I’m trying this year to see what I can do to reach $50,000,” Goldstein said last week. “I just thought that it’s so important for people still to remember how many are affected by this disease. It hasn’t gone away; there’s no cure. And there’s still stigma and prejudice in the climate we’re living in.”
More than 30 years ago, Goldstein, 72, and her husband, Lenny, found out that one of their closest friends had been diagnosed with AIDS. The woman found out when she gave birth to her daughter.
When her friend needed help, according to Goldstein, Gay Men’s Health Crisis was the only organization that was willing to step up, with legal services, affordable medication and more.
“She lived for another two and a half years, and we saw her every week until she died,” Goldstein said. “When we found out that she was ill, I promised her that I would do everything I could to see that no one else would suffer the way that she did. That was the first year that I raised money for AIDS Walk New York.”
For 30 years now, Goldstein has walked each year, and raised $550,000 to fight the virus that took her dear friend.
In 2016, Goldstein was recognized by the Nassau County Legislature and received the Humanitarian of the Year award for raising a cumulative $505,000 for GMHC, through the Aids Walk.
“The first year we did the walk, her sponsors consisted of me and our two dogs,” Lenny recalled in an interview last year. “Now she has over 500 sponsors.”
Goldstein was honored for her work when State Sen. John Brooks presented her with the New York State Liberty Medal — the highest civilian honor state senators can give — last summer.
Goldstein “is an unsung hero who grasps onto a life mission to help others, not for glory or profit, but to alleviate suffering and provide assistance to others who might otherwise be uncared for,” Brooks said. “Francine’s selflessness and consideration of others is something to be admired and respected.”
Goldstein’s goal this year is $50,000, and she is well on her way — with $22,000 raised so far — but she still needs the community’s help, she said.
“It’s important for people to remember that this is a cause they should still support,” she said.
AIDS Walk New York has raised roughly $150 million since its inception about 30 years ago. All funds go toward multiple local HIV/AIDS advocacy programs and service organizations such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
According to Goldstein, even small donations can make a significant difference:
$25 can pay for two HIV tests so that more people know their status and can get care.
$50 can pay for two weeks’ worth of groceries for a family affected with HIV.
$100 can buy 80 safer sex kits to stop the spread of HIV.
$500 can pay for 125 hot healthy meals served at GMHC for people living with HIV.
To donate to Goldstein’s cause, either visit www.ny.aidswalk.net and search for Goldstein’s name, or mail a check with the subject “AIDS Walk New York” to 1407 Chapin Ave., Merrick, N.Y. 11566.
The 2018 AIDS Walk will be held on May 20 in Central Park.