Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Cyclists ride to fight HIV, AIDS

July 19, 2001

Regardless of the trek, bicyclists are preparing to help people affected by the HIV and AIDS viruses.

The seventh annual Life Ride 2001 bike-a-thon to benefit people with HIV and AIDS is being held Friday and Saturday. It is being coordinated by the Lansing Area AIDS Network, 4660 S. Hagadorn Road.

Bicyclists will be leaving from Jackson Community College, 2111 Emmons Road in Jackson, at 7:30 a.m. Friday and will ride to Saugatuck, with an overnight stop in Kalamazoo - a total of about 145 miles altogether.

The total length of the trip is 112 miles.

Brenda Stoneburner, executive director for LAAN, said 30 riders have signed up to take to the road.

“Our goal is $15,000 and from what I hear from people I think we are going to be close,” she said.

Last year, 31 riders raised $13,000. Riders are encouraged to collect sponsorships for completing either the full two-day ride from Jackson to Saugatuck or the one-day ride from Kalamazoo to Saugatuck.

She said bicyclists have faced some bad weather conditions, like heat and high winds, but stick it out for the cause.

“There are friendships that develop, knowing that everyone is in it for the same cause,” Stoneburner said.

While LAAN coordinates the event, it was originally founded by Lisa Poli and Donna Zaj of Warren, Mich.

“Back in ’94 we just wanted to do something and we heard of all the walks and dinners, and we are avid bikers so we just decided to do a bike-a-thon,” she said.

For its first year Zaj said she and Poli were the only riders. The two worked to find sponsorship in following years and the Michigan AIDS Fund decided to help. The fund is an organization that supports community-based efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and improve the lives of AIDS patients.

“We were with them for the first two years and then slowly it got handed over to LAAN and they just took off with it,” Zaj said.

She said LAAN has been able to find the sponsorship and advertisement that she and Poli couldn’t do.

But the ride is not at all a competitive event.

“It has been so cool for the last couple of years,” Zaj said. “There has been more camaraderie among riders, it is real supportive. It is a fun, fun group.”

Poli said the riders are always upbeat and in high spirits the first morning of the ride. She said plenty of riders return every year.

“There is probably a little over a handful that are the same and then there are several new faces,” she said.

One part of the race, which was added a few years ago, is a moment of silence while the names of HIV and AIDS victims are read.

“I would say the majority of (the riders) have been affected in one way or another,” she said.

But Zaj said there is one part of the Life Ride in particular she has been looking forward to since it began.

“I ride every year so I don’t have to ride,” she said. “I am looking for the time when we will ride for the last time because hopefully someone finds a cure.”

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