Pedalers with a purpose
Campus AIDS riders train for high-mileage summer fundraisers across the country

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs


aids rider

Education reseracher Diane Hirshberg sported a shower cap during a rainy stretch of last year’s Alaska AIDS Ride. She’s now in training for the AIDS Vaccine Ride from Montreal-to-Portland, Maine this September.

09 May 2001 | School of Optometry staffer Jenni Wilkinson expects a cheering crowd as she rides down Los Angeles’ Avenue of the Stars next month on the midnight-blue bicycle she calls “my trusty steed.”

Big ego? No, big quads. And two California AIDS Rides already behind her — enough to know what to expect at the end of the week-long, 575-mile trek from San Francisco to L.A.

“It’s a huge thing. There’s like millions of people lining the streets,” Wilkinson says of the always-emotional scene at the finish line. A fitting ending to what she describes as the “utopian experience” of an AIDS ride.

“I’ve had an unreasonable amount of friends die from AIDS,” says Wilkinson. “It’s the one thing I thought I … could do in response, besides just being angry.”

As summer approaches — and with it AIDS rides from California to New England — Wilkinson and dozens of other campus cyclists are racking up mileage on Bay Area roads in preparation.

“They suggest you ride at least 150 miles a week,” says University House gardener Jonel Larson, a cycling enthusiast recruited by Wilkinson to join California AIDSRide 8. “I’m behind,” she admits. “I’ve been biking long enough to know I’m going to be tired and hungry, but I’m going to make it.”

Larson, along with 50 other Berkeley staffers, alumni, students and friends, will wear the blue and gold “Cal Team” jersey on the long trek south through coastal towns and Central Valley fields.

The Berkeley team got its start in 1997; with next month’s ride, its cumulative contribution to AIDS programs will approach three-quarters of a million dollars, estimates Haas School staffer Mary Corley, co-captain of Cal Team 2001.

“We’re not Team Schwab or Team Chevron; we’re not on that list of teams that raise the most money,” Corley says. “We serve a different purpose.… We’re the ones who call out the road rules, or change tires (for other riders).”

The spirit of camaraderie starts long before the Cal Team leaves Fort Mason, with 2,700 other cyclists, the morning of June 3. This year it committed itself to recruiting more students — and to helping them meet the $2,700 minimum required to register for the ride.

“Raising $2,700 is such an onerous thing for students, particularly undergrads,” says Corley. Riders whose friends have “deeper pockets” sign over extra contributions to fellow Cal Team members struggling to reach their minimums, she says.

Though the fundraising quotas can seem daunting, many campus riders are pleasantly surprised at how willingly people contribute, and how quickly contributions add up.

Education researcher Diane Hirshberg last year raised $4,200 from family and friends for the Alaska ride. With her mother now running for L.A. city council, she has competition for the disposable income in her family circle. Still — with the help of personal letters, home video parties, and less-than-subtle e-mail reminders — she’s well on her way to making her minimum for the AIDS Vaccine Ride from Montreal to Portland, Maine in early September.

Capital Projects staff pledged close to $1,000 to coworkers Christine Shaff and David Duncan at an April luncheon. Duncan, who is HIV positive, is a three-time veteran of the California AIDSRide. Shaff is in training for her first — and she’s feeling it already in her muscles.

“After doing 100 miles this weekend, I think ‘Oh, my God, what am I doing? It’s a little bit daunting,” she confesses.
“But the tough times I have pale in comparison to being sick — having to take a whole cocktail of drugs every day, or worrying abut the different kinds of cancers that come with AIDS,” adds Shaff. “I just have it so good in comparison. So my quads hurt — big deal.”

Information on the Cal Team is available on the Web at


Home | Search | Archive | About | Contact | More News

Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

Comments? E-mail