On the morning of June 2, thousands of cyclists will depart Cow Palace in San Francisco for a seven-day, 545-mile journey to Los Angeles on AIDS/LifeCycle, which raises money for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Through 2018, AIDS/LifeCycle participants have raised more than $262 million.
For anyone who wants to take part in what many describe as a life-changing experience, training, and fundraising should begin now.
“Now is really the time to commit and decide to do something incredible,” says Cailin Lafontaine, director of the Southern California Office of AIDS/LifeCycle. “Now is when fundraising really starts to ramp up. We raise about 40% of the money during the months of April and May so now really is the time to get started.”
More than 2,300 cyclists participated in the 2018 ride with more than 650 volunteer “roadies” supporting them during the journey which in addition to raising funds, also raises awareness to end the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.
This year’s ride will include several Center employees, some who are participating for the first time.
“Whether I fall on my face or finish the ride full-steam ahead, I’m just leaning on my community and knowing that I’ll just be fine,” says Jenny Neal, an outreach specialist for Children, Youth and Family Services.
“Our youth motivate me every day to go to work and get things done so this is just another way to help our community and help our youth,” Neal adds.
Edgardo Medina-Colon, a medical social worker with Health Services, wants to be a role model for his HIV-positive clients.
“People living with HIV can be healthy and thrive in life and inspire their community to do the same,” he says. “That’s the message I want to make sure I deliver. You can be healthy and give back to the community at the same time.”
Pamela Brooks, a training supervisor with Human Resources, jokingly describes her decision to sign up for the ride as “a moment of insanity.” She actually made the decision last year when she drove up to Ventura to take part in the candlelight vigil at San Buenaventura State Beach that takes place at the end of day six.
“I hadn’t been to the vigil before,” Brooks shares. “It was very moving to me because I came out in San Francisco and lost so many friends in the late 80s. It was a traumatizing, catalyzing time. I haven’t ridden a bicycle in 30 years and never thought I would do AIDS/LifeCycle. But that candlelight vigil made me know that I had to do it. It changed my life.”
This year’s ride will be the tenth consecutive for Johnny Cross, disease intervention specialist supervisor in Health Services.
“The people’s lives that we touch is what keeps me going,” Cross says. “Every year I seriously think, ‘Am I going to do it next year?’ Then I think, ‘What am I going to do that week if I’m not there?’ It would be hard to not be involved because it’s so special and life-changing every year.”
Even though he’s been on the journey so many times already, Cross says “every time is almost like my first time.”
“Each ride is always so different from the last,” he adds. “I still get the nerves that first morning. Then we get on our bikes and we’re out there and it’s all great.”
Observes Lafontaine: “I think you get a sense of belonging and greater purpose. I found a place where I felt like what I was doing mattered and had a really positive impact on the world around me. People are looking for a way to have a positive impact. This makes you feel like you are taking a big step in the right direction for humanity.”
Go to AIDS/LifeCycle.org to sign up for the ride and for more information.