The Human Spirit
I rode my bike from SF to LA 3 times on the California AIDS Rides from '95 - '97. Each ride was such an incalculable collection of emotional and physical experiences; but looking back the most moving was being one of thousands of people, each one of us committed, inspired and pouring out our hearts and pushing our bodies to do something for our friends, loved ones and people we didn't even know who were suffering from AIDS. Being a small part of this huge alignment of the human spirit changed me; I strive to live my life each day as I did then.


My Trek
I was incredibly honored to be a part of Pallotta Teamworks' only African AIDS Trek, a week-long trek in the wilderness area outside of Cape Town, South Africa in 2002. We netted a million dollars to 3 research agencies in the U.S. as well as several organizations within South Africa. The most amazing part of it for me was actually having our boots on African soil, and hearing what it meant to them for us to be there. One HIV+ mother whose young son had recently died of AIDS thanked us, with tears in her eyes, for doing what she no longer had the strength to do. Her name was Florence Ngobeni, and she's the reason I continue my trek every day.


I will never forget walking the historic trail in Boston with a group of older ladies, all breast cancer survivors, and being able to hear them share their triumphs, and their sadness as they reflected on someone they had recently lost to Breast Cancer. For one of the women to tell me that without the event, she never would have had the courage to tell her family that she had been diagnosed was a tragic yet uplifting moment for me. Knowing that we weren’t just raising money and awareness for an important cause, but that we were opening doors of communication that were closed for centuries, was something I will cherish my entire life.


Missing the rides, but riding still
I rode in the Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride, the Canada US AIDS Vaccine Ride, and the European AIDS Vaccine Ride. IN all I raised around $50,000.00. It continues to break my heart that these rides are no longer in existence. From looking at the numbers, it seems pretty clear that a LOT of money was raised, a LOT went to the beneficiaries, and a LOT is now not happening. It seems to me that the naysayers did a huge disservice to the beneficiaries, who now get nothing.

But more than that, we get nothing. Those three rides were amazing, transformational events for me. They were very hard, yes, but they also gave me the feeling that I was doing something really good, something that was really making a difference. And not only did the beneficiaries get the funds, the people who donated to me got a vicarious lift too.

This year I am going to ride across the country. I am riding with a small group of women, all of whom might or might not be raising money for a specific cause.

This is my 20th year of being an ovarian cancer survivor and so I am riding for that - to bring awareness to the fact that early detection can make a huge difference in surviving.

I'm excited and am looking forward to the ride.

But as I get trained and geared up, I feel a huge sadness that I am not part of a huge movement and a huge team of people who have come together to help do something very good.

I'm raising money and I'm going to do this ride and it will be a good thing. No doubt about it.

But I can't help thinking how much better it could be. I can't help thinking about how much I miss Pallotta Teamworks.


400 miles of kindness.
I signed up for the Canada>US AIDSRide after seeing the ad in a magazine 9 months earlier. I wanted to challenge myself, set a goal, help raise money for an important, really important, cause.

I spent the next 9 months training by myself, spinning in the gym, riding outside on days when I wasn't spinning. Strength know the drill.

By the time I got to Montreal I was thought I was ready. I had done all the training, rode the miles, I was ready.

And then I realized, right about that time they showed the movie, that I wasn't really about to go on a ride, I was about to change my life. I was about to really learn something about myself and others. "For the next five nice to people?" I am from New Jersey, but I guess I can try that.

And wouldn't you know it, that is exactly what happened. I was super nice to people and they were super nice to me. It was just all of us, our bikes, the road and the sky each day. No TV, no newspapers, no Internet. It was amazing.

I couldn't believe it when I got to Portland. I had done it. I had done something I never thought I could and accomplished it. And along the way, I learned that kindness goes a long way, about 400 miles.

9/11 happened two or three days later. They didn't wait long enough for me to really enjoy what I had accomplished, what I had learned.

But I can tell you this. When I need to feel good, when I need to inspire others. I am facing a big challenge. I think about my ride and remember that that I'mpossible.



Kindness, Hope and Magic
I am fortunate to have been a part of the Pallotta TeamWorks events from 1995 until 2002 as a volunteer, crew member, participant and staff member. These events were filled with a special kind of hope, kindness and magic that is unexplainable to anyone that had not experienced it.
The one thing I continue to marvel at is that anytime I was on an event, whether as crew, participant or staff, it was always difficult to come back to the real world when the event was over. No matter how hard you tried to re-create the kindness, hope and magic in your real world, it never really compared with being on an event. I'm thankful that I am still connected to some of the people who helped create the magic that was the Pallotta TeamWorks events.


We walked for Carolyn
My friend and colleague Carolyn Jenkins got breast cancer. Julie - one of her other friends and colleagues - and I and decided to do the 3-Day breast cancer walk from Santa Barbara to Malibu in honor of Carolyn.

Carolyn died a week before the 2001 walk. I walked day one and day three - and went to her funeral on day two. My husband drove to Oxnard to pick me up and take me to the funeral - then drove me back that evening. I still can't even write this without tearing up, remembering.

The second year I walked - year two - and the last Pallotta Teamwork sponsored walk - the other vivid memory I have is of the day two line up.

We were all queued in up in rows at the starting point, waiting for enough daylight to begin walking. From behind us - like a wave of sound, people had started singing the Star Spangled Banner. As it rolled toward us, I got goose bumps. We started singing as it reached us and rolled over us like an ocean wave. It was the year after 911, and it was still very close to the surface for everyone.

I also remember all of the wonderful people who lined the walk every day, cheering us on and giving us little stickers and trinkets and hard candies. There was a troop of Brownies that were so sweet!

This year, Julie and I are walking again - this will be my fifth year. But I have to say, it is not the same without Pallotta Teameworks running it. Susan Komen is fine, but it doesn't have the same spirit of calling, the same feeling of comradarie, the same sense of courage.


A Life Changing Experience
It was a calling that forever changed my life. I was afraid of asking people for money and not to mention riding on a bike for so many days and miles. Something just told me that it was something I had to do. The first ride led to the second, which led to volunteering, which led to becoming a training ride leader, which led to becoming part of the PTW Creative Team. I would have to say it was the most fulfilling job that I will ever have. Whether on the road or in the office, the entire experience changed my life. I have made many life-long friends and it's given me the opportunity to be part of history. What was my most memorable moment? Every moment was.


Everything is not as it seems
On day 3 of my first ride, I was riding through a small town in Wisconsin with a group of about 10 other riders. An older lady came running out of her house yelling, "are you those AIDS riders?". I was the only one who peeled off and rode back to talk with her. I was preparing for a tongue lashing. She was an older white woman, and I immediately thought that she was going to yell at me or hit me in the head with a bible and try to show me the way. I was so wrong. She wanted to give me money and hug me. One of her friend's child died of AIDS. She wanted to give something in his memory. I was a sweaty, stinky mess and she wanted to hug me. It is over 10 years ago that his happened and it still makes me tear up. I miss the ride, the community,the kindness. My favorite shirt is still, humankind, be both.


Meaning to my life...
For a few years, I lived for the Aids Rides. Meeting people and assisting the office whenever possible to sign up more riders and help support them along the way. It was this time in my life that I felt most meaning in my life.

I met amazing people and have wonderful memories. I ran into people I knew from years before by chance and said goodbye to a dear friend from the rides whom perished on 9/11.

The Aids RIdes gave many people hope, direction, a community, a reason.... I miss it and wish it was still around!