Cal team gears up for 2018 AIDS/LifeCycle ride to LA

2015 Berkeley AIDS/LifeCycle team at San Gregorio beach

2015 Berkeley AIDS/LifeCycle team at San Gregorio beach; Kirstie Whitaker is second from the left.

For the 14th year, a team of staff, alumni and friends of UC Berkeley will bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds to support the work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Both organizations provide free HIV/AIDS medical care, testing, and prevention services in their respective regions. Riders will also raise awareness to end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, and honor those who have passed from AIDS-related causes.

The 2018 team is a diverse group. I’m a librarian in the Berkeley Law library. Also on the team are scientists, tech workers, a social worker, a finance professional, an events manager and even a bigwig from Cal Rec Sports.

I am riding for the fourth time in gratitude for close friends who enjoy good health and strong, committed same-sex marriages. I’m also hooked on the loving community that is the AIDS/LifeCycle family. My teammate and co-captain, Kirstie Whitaker is riding for the 10th year! This is her story:

Ramona Collins, a Berkeley Law librarian on a training ride for the upcoming AIDS/LifeCycle ride, meets David Smith of the California Alumni Association, pedaling up Morgan Territory Road on the east side of Mt. Diablo. 

I first saw posters for AIDS/Lifecycle scattered around Berkeley in 2007 when I moved there to study for my Ph.D. at Cal. I chose to ride my first year (in 2008) for the personal challenge and to see the beauty of California.

I was hooked! In subsequent years, I rode because the atmosphere of love and support so deeply contrasted my day-to-day life as a grad student. I used to refer to the first week of June as my inoculation against the “crushing self-doubt” of trying to figure out what on earth the brain is doing as children get older (my research focus).

That vaccine used to last around nine months, and then it was nearly time to get back on my bike and ride.

My friends from AIDS/Lifecycle have supported me unfailingly every year, especially after the one I missed (in 2010) when recovering from the death of my boyfriend, Tom Bennett, who passed away in a mountaineering accident on Mt. Shasta.

I think about what an effect these many years of riding have made to how I live my life. I’m now building a career based on bringing that feeling of support to others in science, and fighting for what’s right.

All AIDS/Lifecycle riders and roadies are good and inspiring people. And they are lifted up by the amazing donors who lend their financial and moral support. Donations go to support the important work is detailed here: https://www.aidslifecycle.org/why-we-ride/the-beneficiaries.

But for me, one of the most exciting goals is the work that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation is doing to make San Francisco the first city in the world to achieve zero new HIV infections by 2020. https://www.gettingtozerosf.org/category/getting-to-zero/

To learn more about the Cal Team and to donate to individual members, please visit the team’s page.