September 17, 2007

Ithaca Community Rides for Life

Print More

Family, friends and strangers alike cheered and applauded in unison as bike riders for the 9th annual AIDS Ride for Life made the final turn into Cass Park this past Saturday. The riders battled steady rain, wind and cold towards their destination, and were greeted with hot Starbucks coffee and complimentary massages by the Finger Lakes School of Massage when they arrived at the finish.
“It’s a great cause and it’s a lot of fun,” said Gail Steinhart, a staff member at Mann Library and one of many Cornell students and faculty to participate in the event.
The riders gathered at Stewart Park at 6 a.m. for an opening ceremony consisting of a few speakers, including Tibetan monks. The monks led a series of chants, asking for protection for the riders and the removal of obstacles.
After the ceremony, the riders began the hundred-mile trek to the finish line at Cass Park, where they enjoyed massages, food, refreshments and a variety of music provided by a local radio station. The festivities also included a live a cappella performance by Cornell and Ithaca College students.
“We tried out our musical style on this crowd of weary travelers,” said Tyler Herman ’09 of his group’s decision to perform at the event.
At around 5 p.m., the riders then rode back to Stewart Park for the closing ceremony.
The AIDS Ride for Life is primarily a fundraiser for the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP). STAP serves eight counties in southern New York and is the key provider for services relating to HIV/AIDS in the region.
“The riders really do an incredible job in training and fundraising,” said Jerry Dietz, one of the co-founders of the event.
All riders over the age of 18 are required to raise a minimum of $500 for the event.
“Last year the average rider raised $800 to $900,” Dietz said.
If the estimated 350 registered riders raised at least $200,000 this year, it would have meant a gross total of $1,000,000 over the event’s nine-year history. Last year, the AIDS Ride for Life made $218,000.
Although much of the event’s success is attributed to the dedication of the riders both in their training and fundraising, the time and effort put in by volunteers, organizers said, cannot go overlooked.
“Everybody has been so nice and so helpful,” said Candace Phelan about the volunteers.
Phelan is the volunteer coordinator for STAP, and knows firsthand the importance of getting as many volunteers as possible to help out at the event. Volunteers were needed throughout the day in many different capacities, including setting up and serving food and manning the different pit stops for the riders.
The sisters of Lambda Theta Alpha sorority helped serve breakfast to the riders during the opening ceremony of the event at Stewart Park. Some fraternities and departments at Cornell also had teams of riders that participated in the actual ride, including Cornell Outdoor Education.