By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published May 23, 2016 at 12:26 PM

The annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin has a long and distinguished list of past Honorary Chairs, and it landed another huge name for the Oct. 1 event this year.

On Monday, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW), which produces the event, announced that award-winning Broadway, television and film star Taye Diggs would chair the 27th AIDS Walk Wisconsin & 5K Run at the Summerfest Grounds.

"Twenty years ago, I was proud to be an original member of the cast of "RENT" on Broadway. Today, I am continuing my support of the fight against AIDS as the Honorary Chair of the 27th annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin & 5K Run," Diggs said in a release. "I’m proud of what this event will do for people with HIV and AIDS, I’m proud that this event will continue funding to stop the spread of HIV in the first place and I am honored by the invitation to help Wisconsin keep its place in our country as a leader in responding to this epidemic."

Diggs is perhaps best known for playing Benny Coffin III, a role he originated in 1996, in Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning musical "RENT."

"So many people have come to know the fight against AIDS through the musical "RENT." In the 20th year of its debut on Broadway, we are excited and proud to be working with Taye Diggs as our Honorary Chair," said ARCW President and CEO Michael Gifford.

In the 26 years since the free event began in 1990, more than 125,000 people have participated in AIDS Walk Wisconsin. Registrants have raised more than $12.3 million, with 100 percent of the pledges staying in the state to benefit people living with HIV.

The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin is home to the ARCW Medical Center, which is the state's largest and fastest-growing HIV health care system. Through its integrated medical, dental and mental health clinics – along with a pharmacy and dedicated social services that include food pantries, a legal program, housing support and social work case management – ARCW helps 3,440 HIV patients gain necessary health care and social services for long-term survival with the disease.

"The demands of the AIDS epidemic are greater than ever. A record number of people with HIV – many of whom are living in deep poverty – will turn to ARCW this year for health care and supportive services that will keep them alive," said Gifford. "Our walkers are the difference between being penniless with nowhere to turn for care and living healthy with HIV."

This spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new estimates on the extent of the AIDS epidemic in America. According to those estimates, 1.2 million Americans have been diagnosed from all walks of life. HIV continues to disproportionately affect the gay community, as gay men have a 1 in 6 chance of contracting the disease in their lifetime. For gay men of color, the chance is 1 in 2.

"People need to understand that this epidemic is still claiming lives and that we still need to mount a fight against it. As Honorary Chair, I am positively challenged by this," Diggs said.

Besides his Broadway work in "RENT," "Carousel" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Diggs has made dozens of film and TV appearances. On screen, he’s been featured in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," "Brown Sugar," "Chicago" and "The Best Man" series. His TV career includes roles on the "Guiding Light," "Ally McBeal," "Kevin Hill," "Will and Grace" and "Private Practice." Diggs has won awards from the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the NAACP Image Awards. Currently, he’s voicing a role for the animated movie, "My Little Pony," which is due out in 2017.

AIDS Walk Wisconsin’s impressive list of previous Honorary Chairs includes a broad array of icons from different backgrounds. Among them are famous musicians (‘NSYNC’s Lance Bass in 2015, R&B singer Eric Benet in 2001), star athletes (Packers linebacker Clay Matthews in 2011, NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in 1993), pop culture celebrities (TV fashion guru Tim Gunn in 2014, award-winning performer Bette Midler in 1996) and politicians (Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 1995, Vice President Al Gore in 1995), as well as many other luminaries.

"I expect to see everyone down at the Summerfest grounds on Saturday, October 1st," Diggs said. "Go to today. Register, raise pledges and if you raise $1,000 or more in pledges, I get to have my photo taken with you at the Walk. Let’s make that a goal."

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.