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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Michael Reyes: One AIDS/LifeCycle participant's story
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2012-05-09

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When Michael Reyes saw a documentary years ago about the annual AIDS/LifeCycle, a seven-day ride down the California coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles, he was moved, inspired and motivated. But he also was convinced he personally would never/ could never tackle the 545-mile journey.

Reyes weighed 305 pounds at the time.

Well, over the past few years, Reyes has changed his life—just as the California ride has done for literally tens of thousands of participants for the past 10 years. Reyes has lost 75 pounds, has been working with a personal trainer and joined Weight Watchers.

So, when he spotted at advertisement early last year for the two-day, 200-mile Ride For AIDS Chicago (RFAC), he decided to give it a ride, literally.

"The [2011] Ride For AIDS Chicago was life-challenging," Reyes said. "The community, the connection … those are some of the biggest things I got out of it. The people, the relationships I made with the other riders and crew members … that's what I enjoyed the most.

"And yeah, I was pretty proud of myself," for finishing the Ride.

Reyes, 27, who lives in Chicago's Old Irving neighborhood and has worked at a currency exchange for the past 13 years, has registered for the RFAC again this July—and that will be an encore bicycle ride for him, and a few other Chicagoans.

Reyes is among five who have formed the Windy City Rock Stars, which will be participating in the AIDS/LifeCycle June 3-9.

"I'm making this dream come true," Reyes said of the 545-mile journey. "Helping others is what the [AIDS/LifeCycle] is all about, and that's what drew me to want to do it, not just the [overall] experience."

Joining Reyes in San Francisco will be Chicagoans Brad Schneider, Teddy Greene, Jaime Arroyo and Keith Stryker.

Reyes raised about $2,000 for the Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), which produces the annual RFAC. This year, between the two events, he is shooting to raise $5,000.

"I bought a 35-pound bicycle last year to commute to work. I wasn't expecting to see a flyer for the Ride For AIDS Chicago and then register to participate in it [when the bike was purchased,]" Reyes said. "In fact, I went back and forth for two months [after seeing the RFAC flyer] before contacting [RFAC organizers.] Then, even before signing up, I rode from my home to Waukegan on a cold day, [wearing] a winter coat and winter gloves.

"It was exhausting and challenging, but I did it—and then I signed up for the Ride.

"Now, a year later, I'm trying to make another dream come true."

The Rock Stars featured a sixth Chicagoan, Hugo Aguilera; however, he was forced out of the event due to health reasons. In 2010, Aguilera was training for the RFAC, but had to have brain surgery. At the same time, Aguilera learned he was HIV-positive, Reyes said.

Aguilera was only able to complete 125 of last year's 200 RFAC miles.

Aguilera has since had to have a stent put in his liver and a drain bag, Reyes said.

"Not once has [Aguilera] lost his positive attitude," Reyes said. "He truly is what gives [the] Windy City Rock Stars the fight to complete this ride, and we definitely carry his spirit along the journey."

The AIDS/LifeCycle will be Reyes' first time to San Francisco and Los Angeles, "and I can't imagine a better way to see those cities," he said.

To support the Windy City Rock Stars, visit www.teamwindycityrockstars.com .


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