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 Faculty member Bob Polkinghorn and junior Hailey Gilmore are both in training for this June's AIDS LifeCycle. When Gilmore's bike was stolen, Polkinghorn offered to match contributions for another one. (Cathy Cockrell photo)

Wheels of good fortune
Cal junior and her fellow AIDS LifeCyclists face down their first challenge

| 04 April 2007

Hailey Gilmore scrimped for months to buy a high-quality road bike for the AIDS LifeCycle, a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles benefit ride. In place of her heavy mountain bike, the Berkeley junior got a fast, light Tirreno Razza 1000 for the trek. "It's like upgrading from a Pinto to a Jag," she says of her new wheels.

Then came setback number one: While training on her new "Jag" a few weeks later, Gilmore was charged by a dog and took a spill that damaged her derailleur. On March 16 she retrieved the bike from the repair shop, $200 poorer, then rode to Moffitt Library and locked her cycle to the rack. She found the books she was looking for, but emerged from Moffitt to find a severed security chain. Goodbye, Tirreno Razza.

Fortunately, word of Gilmore's misfortunes reached faculty member Bob Polkinghorn, a fellow Cal Team rider - for whom the stolen bike presented an opportunity to make manifest his belief that good trumps evil, "as people are basically good." In an e-mail to the group, the adjunct professor of education offered to contribute up to $425, on a one-to-one matching basis, to help replace Gilmore's road bike, and thus "ensure that one of our Cal Team members does the ride and raises funds for AIDS," he wrote in his appeal. "Let's rise to the occasion!" he added.

Within days, members of the team - currently 40 Berkeley students, staff members, faculty, and friends - had met Polkinghorn's challenge, in a coup he promptly declared the Cal Team's first victory. Especially impressive, he says, were the "donations from students who are themselves very stretched financially."

Gilmore, meanwhile, has been working extra shifts (as a waitress at the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory's Café Cacao) to help replace the purloined bike. On March 27 she picked up her new neon-yellow riding machine (the same make and model as before, but $300 cheaper, thanks to a clearance sale) at a local shop. The total tab: $1,300.

It's been an "amazing and emotional" couple of weeks for the development-studies major, who professes to be "totally blown away" by her fellow riders' generosity. "Some of them I don't even know, except over e-mail, and here they are pledging money in my name." But of course, she adds, overcoming adversity is in keeping with the spirit of the AIDS ride. "This shows me I'm in the right place, with the right people, doing the right thing."

Cal Team member Christine Shaff - who will provide road support for the team during the 545-mile bike ride, June 3-9 - hopes that others will contribute toward Gilmore's new wheels "so that Hailey and Bob don't have to put up as much themselves." Anyone interested in doing so, or in information on joining the Cal Team or volunteering to support its efforts, may e-mail Shaff at shaff@cp.berkeley.edu.

Each participant is required to raise a minimum of $2,500 for the AIDS LifeCycle, whose proceeds benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. To make a pledge (to be split among the group), visit the Cal Team website at www.aidslifecycle.org/660.