Campus riders are L.A.-bound in AIDS LifeCycle fundraiser

Why would one decide to ride a bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles? Any way you go, that’s a lot of miles! A group of Cal students, staff, alumni and friends are getting ready to start that journey this Sunday, June 1, as part of AIDS LifeCycle (ALC). For the record, they’ll be pedaling about 545 miles over seven days.


The AIDS LifeCycle’s seven-day, 545-mile route from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Their reasons for riding are many. Some ride in honor of friends and family lost to or living with HIV. Others ride for the challenge or as a way to contribute to the community. Introductions to this year’s Cal Team for ALC 2014 are below; they will share photos and stories this week about their journey. Team members have been working hard to get ready, raising at least $3,000 each and training on their bikes and in the gym. The team includes alumni (some newly minted!) of both Cal and the ride, along with current students and new riders.

The campus riders will set out from San Francisco’s Cow Palace on Sunday in special Cal Team jerseys, having raised nearly $55,000 as part of the world’s biggest HIV/AIDS fundraiser. They are grateful for the support of family, friends and the Cal community, and look forward to sharing the week with everyone.

To follow the team’s progress, check back here, starting Monday, for daily blog posts and photos.


2 cyclists

Youness Bennani, right, with Jonathan Goodrich

Youness Bennani
research associate, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Hey there, reader. I am Youness. I’m 26. I work at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab as a research associate in the field of energy efficiency. It is my first time riding the ALC. I am riding mainly for the same reason I work in the field of energy conservation: because I want to help make a difference in the world. I believe life’s purpose is to achieve happiness, for you and for all others. I believe that in order for that to happen, everyone should be considerate and compassionate. And I’d like to think I try. I am riding because I believe that if we all come together we can accomplish great things. I am riding to show everyone, including myself, what it is to be a human being. Not just the bad: the pollution, the killing, the madness. But also the good: fighting for justice and equality, fighting for the good of others, for the good of all. Also, I love riding and I love fun. And from both perspectives, this ride sounds like a BLAST.

Minh Dang

Minh Dang

Minh Dang
alum (B.A. sociology 2006, M.S.W. 2013)

As a survivor of incest and commercial sexual exploitation, I am very lucky I never contracted HIV/AIDS. I am riding 545 miles for the children all over the world who are survivors of incest and sexual exploitation and who are at risk of HIV/AIDS. In some places in the world, girls who are enslaved in brothels and who contract AIDS are kicked to the curb to die. Girls are also raped under the false claims that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS.

Jesse Dill,
alum (2012)

I’m riding to help in the fight against HIV.

Katie Fleming
staff employee and alum

I’m a preparator at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology and a Cal alumna. This is my first year riding and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am riding for all my peers who have never lived in a world without HIV/AIDS, and for all the incredible people who have fought so hard to get us this close. Let’s ride!

Jonathan Goodrich

Jonathan Goodrich

Jonathan Goodrich
alum and staff employee, UC Botanical Garden

I’m an AIDS/LifeCycle addict. This will be my 5th ALC. I’m riding because it’s addictive. I’m riding because it’s fun. More importantly, I’m riding to help other people. The fight isn’t over, and we bring attention to the problem and support to those living with HIV and AIDS.

Being part of the Cal Team is one of the best aspects of the experience: its an amazing group of people who become amazing friends. I went to Cal (anthro major! whoop!) and now work at the UC Botanical Garden. So, Cal is certainly in my blood. This year is an even more significant year for me: I’m riding in honor of a recently fallen friend, Steve Maranzana. We met more than 20 years ago as Cal undergrads and became best friends, and he ended up working at Cal, too. He wasn’t lost due to AIDS, but inspired me to set aside my fears; we both rode in our first ALC in 2010. Without him, I would never have come as far as riding in my 5th ALC. I ride for Steve and I ride for all those he inspired me to help.

Xiaoyu He

I am Xiaoyu He, a first-year AIDS Life Cycle (ALC) rider. I graduated from Cal with a Undergrad degree in Architecture and a Graduate degree in Structural Engineering, and I am a working professional in San Francisco.

I decided to participate this year because of my classmate Pardeep, who was a two-time ALC rider himself. He had highly recommended ALC and gently encouraged me to go to the training rides. Ever since the first training ride, I was hooked, and eventually decided to register for the event. Special thanks goes to a group of cyclists in the East Bay who I go to training with every Sunday. There I am with the training leader Mark Smith and his partner. I feel extremely lucky to have met these volunteer cyclists, who keep me going.

It has been a great personal challenge both physically and mentally, but most importantly, I am glad that I am riding for a great cause. I know that every mile I ride is getting us closer to a world without the threat of AIDS.

Go Bears! Roar~

Sam Kimbrel
alum (2010, electrical engineering and computer sciences)

I’m doing ALC for the second time after having an amazing experience last year. I ride to challenge myself, to support the community, and to raise funds for an extremely important cause affecting millions.

Pardeep Kumar
PhD student

Over the last 20 years, we have come long way in ensuring longevity of life and health for people living with HIV/AIDS. But there are communities and families that haven’t been able to open hearts and minds to accept loved ones living with HIV/AIDS. Ignorance and stigma are still widespread, even in communities with relatively good access to information about HIV and AIDS. This is why the ride itself is important to me and everyone else in the community. For the last two years I participated in the event as a rider; this year I am a roadie (a volunteer) with Pack Up team. I am looking forward to new experiences and really excited about it.



Po-Ling Loh

Po-Ling Loh
statistics PhD student (just graduated!)

I had such a great time during ALC 2013 that I clearly wanted to do it again. I love the ALC community and the opportunity to help raise money for the new network of friends I made through the ride. I will soon be moving away from the Bay Area, but I hope I can convince many of my friends who are still at Cal to ride in future years.

Gregory Martinez

In the past few years I have acquired quite a taste for riding my fixed-gear bike all around the East Bay. My mother came to me and suggested we try this AIDS LifeCycle thing together, and I thought, “Hey, maybe I should try some organized cycling since I’ve already ridden around most of Berkeley and Oakland.” And here I am, days away from a 545-mile ride down the coast of sunny California… so this should be fun And it’s for a good cause! My mom works at Cal so I am riding with the Cal Team.

Ramona Martinez
staff employee

I had heard about the AIDS LifeCycle ride for a while and I thought it would be a good thing to do … one day. I was convinced to ride while I was hiking up and out of the Grand Canyon last year. One of the guides on my backpacking trip worked for the SF AIDS Foundation and he said I should do it. I guess it didn’t take much arm twisting to get me to sign up. My son, Gregory, is an avid cyclist and I thought it would be a good thing to do together before he goes off to college. Also, I know Devin from the Recreational Sports Facility and he told me about the Cal Team. How could I resist?

I have not lost a close family member to AIDS, but that is beside the point. In fact, I have many healthy gay friends and I am grateful for all the progress that has been made in the fight against this disease.

2 cyclists

Andrew Rohrlich and Katie Fleming

Andrew Rohrlich
alum (2013)

I’m riding because the SF AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center do such important, vital work. This will be my third ALC, and I can’t imagine ever not participating in the ride. It’s a week of so much love. While there are challenges along the 545-mile course, everyone knows they are united by a greater purpose — to end HIV/AIDS. I’m so excited for this year’s ride.

Josh Schoenfeld

I used to work at Cal in molecular and cellular biology. I am now an MD/PhD student at the University of Iowa. This will be my fourth year riding in the last five years. I continue to ride to support HIV and AIDS services and awareness. This year in particular, I also ride for Steve Maranzana, a Cal alum, EH&S staff and friend I first met five years ago while training for our first ALC. He passed away suddenly this past year while riding his bike and will be greatly missed. So we ride to end AIDS and to remember Steve.

Harry Stark
staff employee

I ride because I can. I ride because others can’t. I ride because I can make a difference in the lives of those who are living with HIV/AIDS. I ride so that others will not be infected with the disease. I ride in the hope that we will not have to continue riding.

Christine Shaff
staff employee and alum

This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the CDC’s announcement of the discovery of HIV; the 20th year of a bike ride from SF to LA to raise funds for HIV/AIDS; my 14th year on the road with that event; and my last year as a roadie captain. While I can’t imagine not having The Ride be a part of my life, it’s time to hand over the reins of Bike Parking to someone else who will do it differently — or maybe better? I’ve participated in this event to support the SF AIDS Foundation and people close to me living with HIV, and to honor those lost to the disease. I look forward to the day I can be part of a ride to celebrate the end of HIV.

Kirstie Whitaker
alum  (PhD, 2012)

I’m now researching adolescent brain development and the emergence of mental-health disorders, at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge in the UK. As a Fulbright scholar I spent much of my five years at Berkeley exploring the culture and natural beauty of my host country.  I first rode from San Francisco to L.A., as part of AIDS LifeCycle, in 2008. The ride not only showcased the splendor of the California coast, wine country and central valley, but also the love, kindness and generosity of spirit that this community of riders creates for seven days every year. I was hooked.

This year will be my sixth ride with the Cal Team; I raised more than $22,000 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in this time. I am particularly proud of the counselling services that the beneficiary charities provide, helping to ensure that people in California living with HIV are able to maintain their mental wellbeing in the face of the debilitating stigma associated with the virus. I cannot think of a better way to spend my summer holiday than back in this beautiful state. And, if that weren’t reason enough, there are few places one can see quite so many glamorous men in red dresses. That’s a sight that will keep me smiling for the next 11 months, until it’s time to ride again.