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Father, 12-year-old son take part in Ride for AIDS Chicago
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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John Schneider lives on the North Side, yet has been working on the South Side of Chicago around HIV prevention since 2001. He is a fierce advocate for ensuring resources are available in neighborhoods most impacted by HIV and that clinical settings are affirming, responsive to client needs and a fun place to work.

"I specialize in providing high quality primary care, sexual health, hormone therapy and HIV care to young Black gay, bisexual and other MSM as well as Black transgender persons," he said. "My clinic is at Howard Brown 55th Street, where I am medical director. My five hours of clinic each week is busy and the highlight of the week. I have learned so much about what it takes to live intersectional ( SGM and Black ) and how that impacts health outcomes.

"I work in HIV and know firsthand what people living with HIV go through as well as those who are vulnerable to HIV."

Schneider also is a biker, so participating this September in the 15th annual Ride For AIDS Chicago seemed logical.

The catch was, he did the two-day Ride along with his 12-year-old son, Mahin, who is believed to be the youngest Ride participant ever.

"I take him to many HIV prevention or other health fair events that our Center runs on the South Side, so this was just another one," Schneider said. "He is a young athlete and I have seen him accomplish some other long endurance activities, like hiking. I thought he could do it. He tends to be shy and I thought it would help him to interact with many people."

And it didn't take much convincing for Mahin to agree to ride, his dad said.

After the Ride, Dad was brimming with pride, particularly for his son.

"I did a long walk at his age, but that was it. He has a special capacity for these sorts of things," John said. "We were both very tired," after the two-day, almost-200 mile ride.

When asked if they'd do it again, John said they absolutely would

"In the final mile of the Ride, we made a pact to do it again in the next five years, maybe for the 20th anniversary," of the Ride, Schneider said.

Mahin is in the seventh-grade at Lab School in Chicago. He plays competitive soccer and admitted that he had "some trepidation" before the Ride.

Afterward, Mahin said the Ride was "just as hard as climbing Mt. Olympus."

But the youngster also was filled with pride.

"I was happy [to finish] and excited to get [to eat] Cheetos," which he normally doesn't get to enjoy, he said.

Mahin said his Ride highlight was cycling along the beach and crossing the finish line at the end of day one, when he rode 103 miles.

When asked about being the youngest Ride participant ever, Mahin simply shrugged his shoulders.

John Schneider, 44, who is married to Nammi, said the Ride was a "privilege" to cycle alongside "so many fighters and people passionate about what they do."

The Ride exceeded his pre-event expectations, he said.

"The outpouring of support for Mahin was incredible and not what I had expected," he said. "He was like a mascot. Mahin was very nervous because I always bring him to events where he is the only kid. He kept asking, will there be other kids. I kept saying, probably not. I think including him in these sorts of activities are so important to his development."

John acknowledged the challenge that is the annual Ride, but added, "I am part of something special."

"The final 10 miles of the first day were the hardest, particularly for Mahin," John said. "His hardest point was a fall he had and then the final 10 miles. Particularly when his odometer said 100 miles, but then we had another 5 [miles or so] to go. The first day was 103 miles and [the] odometer was off by 2. I bought him the odometer so I didn't have to hear 'are we there yet?' the entire Ride."

John said his personal highlights of the Ride were the long beach and coastal riding [areas and] seeing people who had not previously ridden using their mental power to get through."

When asked about participating in the Ride to support those impacted by HIV/AIDS, Schneider said he is "hopeful that we will reach no new cases by 2041, which is our Center's projection. The official Illinois projections are for 2030, so I am optimistic and driven to do all I can to contribute to this effort."

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