Kelly Southard was in her fourth Ride For AIDS Chicagothe two-day, 200-mile bicycle ride July 8-9, organized and benefitting the Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN )and it still personal, emotional for her.
Southard was riding in memory of her cousin, Scott, who lost his fight with HIV/AIDS in 1995.
"Being an experienced rider, I had some idea of what to physically expect out of Ride weekend," Southard said. "[There's] the adrenaline of day one, the pain of riding when your body is tired on day two, how difficult some of those hills are, the adrenaline push of the last 10 miles to the finish line in Evanston, how emotional it is at the start, and the finish [with] the Riderless Bicycle," representing those who have passed from HIV/AIDS.
Southard said the camaraderie, spirit, and cheerleading-like support this year "was amazing."
"[Cycling] 200 miles over two days gives one a lot of time to reflecton where my life is [at] in general, about what I want to change, [and] most importantly, it gives me time to reflect on my cousin, [such as] the fun memories growing up to the heartbreaking ones at the end of his life.
"I curse the hills I have to climb, but I am motivated because what I do is a small part of finding a cure, a small part of ensuring that my friends who live with HIV/AIDS don't have to go through what he did. I am grateful that the people the Ride has brought into my life, the friendships I have made, my Ride Buddy Lauren, that my friends and family are generous with the money they donate, but most importantly that I am physically able to ride and represent those who can't."
Patrick Lannon was in his eighth Ride and his first on the executive committee board. "After every Ride, I think it can't get any better or more fulfilling, and yet it does. I learned this year all the hard work, energy and heart it takes to make this event successful."