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05.06.09

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News Blast

By P. Joseph Potocki


Aids and the Spirit of '76

On Saturday, May 30, more than 2,000 cyclists will begin pedaling south from San Francisco, making their way down to the City of Angels. The seventh annual AIDS/LifeCycle is a week-long bike pilgrimage benefiting AIDS research and hospices, and in support of programs for persons carrying the HIV virus. But despite their exertive efforts and best intentions, more than a thousand Americans will have become newly infected with HIV by the time the riders reach Los Angeles. Clearly, AIDS is still both a present danger and an ongoing tragedy.

Riders, virtual riders, trainers, roadies, sundry volunteers and en route well-wishers all play their parts in making each year's AIDS/LifeCycle a success. Organizers call it "a life-changing ride—not a race—through some of California's most beautiful countryside." Riders include many so-called positive pedalers: persons living with HIV.

But in order to mount their bikes and take on the 545-mile ride, each cyclist pledges first to raise at least $3,000. That gives folks sitting at home the opportunity to help eliminate AIDS by simply opening up their pocket books. To date, people have. Last year's riders, with the help of 60,000 sponsors, raised a record $11.6 million for AIDS/LifeCycle, more than any other annual HIV/AIDS fundraising event.

One notable North Bay rider requesting contributions is 76-year-old Al Longo, father of eight, grandfather of 19—and soon to be great grandfather of three. Longo's a former sea merchant and construction worker, a lifelong abstract expressionist painter who biked in his first AIDS/LifeCycle at the now-youthful age of 70.

Longo began serious cycling at age 60, having determined running 10ks just wasn't enough exercise for him. That year, Longo entered his first triathlon. Then, six years ago, riding in his first AIDS/LifeCycle, Longo raised more than $2,500 in contributions.

This year, Longo needs $500 more than before just to saddle up. He emphasizes the he's "not really great at fundraising," and could use some local support. Assuming the Santa Rosa resident raises the $3,000 required to take part in the bike run, Longo will be the second oldest rider pedaling down to L.A. But Longo remains undaunted by age. "I hope to be able to continue riding in this event until I am the oldest," he says, "if I live that long."

To help sponsor Al Longo's AIDS/LifeCycle ride, please email candalongo@comcast.net, or call him at 707.576.7236.


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