Saturday, May 25, 2019

Those Who Serve

Ours is a team rooted in love and dedication to honoring the lives of 3 brothers lost too soon because of HIV/AIDS. In our 20 years together, we’ve come upon many such siblings, in addition to sons, daughters, spouses and friends but Joshua Campbell was the first to refer to us as “sibling survivors”. Joshua became a survivor in 2007 when his brother Jason lost his life in the line of duty with the Greenville NC Police Department. He’s ridden over 1,500 miles in support of families and especially children, whose parents are killed in the line of duty and is equally dedicated to the mission of Action Cycling Atlanta and the AIDS Vaccine 200 beneficiaries. 

In 2018 Joshua chose to dedicate his AV200 ride to the memory of Donald David Fehrenbach, brother of my teammate, Jon. Last weekend Joshua chose to dedicate his AV200 ride to my brother Bret and didn’t let conflicting family obligations slow his plans. In stepped Mary Harding, long term ride buddy, teammate and fellow sibling survivor to carry out Joshua’s plans. Over the course of 2-days and 200 miles, 4 red cuffs engraved with Joshua’s dedication to Bret were passed from scientist to rider to crew to donor and back again. My words cannot come any closer than the looks on their faces as that bracelet came to symbolize the inspiration for why we ride and give, work and serve to end AIDS.  

Bret Granato - Band of Honor relay 2019 AIDS Vaccine 200 Ride

Joshua made it back in time for closing ceremonies
 and to see everyone who participated in his 2019 AV200
Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can                          -John Wesley

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ride Reason

Prologue: Jersey worn on my Saturday training ride (pic is post-ride, i.e. done!). 

Chapter 1: 25 miles in, I arrived at one of my favorite pit stops where the bench is always shady when you need it, the restroom (flush toilets!) is clean and there's a new water bottle filler (thanks BIKES Club of Snohomish County!).
I parked my bike in the corner slot and greeted the cyclist sitting on the bench. She looked strong perched next to her fast bike and we instantly shared gratitude for shade on this hot, HOT day. 
Conversation naturally moved to what we were doing out here alone. Training, yes. She, for her first STP and me for the AIDS Vaccine 200. She must have glanced at my jersey when she declared "How great about the vaccine!"

My knee-jerk response, "It IS great how far the research has come but we're not there yet. That's why I ride." For all of one second she looked puzzled then quickly apologized. Apologized!! For not being better informed. Within another 10 seconds she was up to speed and that made training in HOT weather for 6 hours on a perfectly good Saturday completely worthwhile.

Postlogue: Mary, Jon and I are entering our third decade of riding for the same reason and we weren't spring chickens when we started. One of our greatest personal challenges is accepting the growing limitations of our cycling bodies and focusing more intently on the primary reasons we register, advocate, ask for your support and show up at the starting line - to raise awareness and funding to fight HIV and end the devastation of AIDS on the world. Your encouragement, prayers, good wishes, knowledge sharing and love make all the difference. You are the wind at our back and the fuel making it happen.



Monday, November 26, 2018

Woven Together


A guest in my home is likely to sleep under Bret’s quilt. Mom made one for each of us, carefully choosing colors and themes to fit our personality, often from childhood. Bret loved the water and his early drawings were full of cute little creatures with big features so it was fitting that his quilt would be covered with friendly frogs in a watery sea of blues, greens and purple. His quilt was finished in time to cover Bret in love through the last days of his life and remains a tangible memory of my little brother, in my home.

My first glimpse of Peter’s quilt panel was the same year Mom stitched 2 quilts for a raffle to raise donations for the 2000 Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride. Lovingly assembled by family and friends soon after his 1995 death from AIDS-related causes, Peter Harding’s family chose to personally share his panel rather than add it to the ever-growing AIDS Memorial Quilt. As a result, this extraordinary piece of art was passed from cousin to friend, sister to neighbor, displayed in classrooms, churches and community events across the country. Peter’s sister Mary would share the touching story of his inspiring life, illustrated by this beautiful panel which came along on our Alaska and New York rides. Peter’s panel would make its final solo appearance this year in Atlanta.

The morning after our 200-mile weekend AIDS ride, a select, supportive group of AIDS Vaccine 200 family joined Mary at the new Names Project Foundation headquarters in downtown Atlanta for the significant delivery of Peter’s panel. We took our time, laying out the panel for all to marvel at the detail and love added by each contributor including more recent family additions. This magnificent panel will be joined to another 7 forming one of more than 6,000 blocks dedicated to over 96,000 individuals lost to AIDS. The Harding mission to remember Peter while maintaining awareness of the AIDS pandemic can now go viral as each panel is digitized and displayed with the memories shared by those who knew Peter best.

That same weekend, 3,000 miles away, another gathering celebrated the life of Gretchen Piscotty. Gretchen and I were new moms, neighbors and fellow church members in California who kept in touch over the years through mutual friends. Her battle with ALS was short and fierce. Gretchen was determined to live every second to the fullest and had family and friends close at hand to make that happen as they tenderly launched Gretchen into her next journey.

Mary heard about the nearby Snohomish Ride to Defeat ALS and suggested we ride it together in
honor of Gretchen. The 60-mile event experience was like every charity ride, from the bustle of crew setting up registration, snacks, water and gear checks to the nervous energy of each cyclist, some experienced and most others not. Hardest to miss at this event was the large multi-generational team of riders and crew in matching jerseys and tees with

the distinguishable graphic of a colorful patchwork quilt on a black background. Team Granny had travelled from Arizona to honor their matriarch and remember her as more than a victim of ALS. Granny, I would learn, was a loving wife, mother, friend and remarkable quilter, just like Gretchen.

The patchwork symbol woven through this cycling season depicts for me the interconnected value each unique contribution makes to the beauty and significance of the whole. Cherished lives are honored and remembered by the actions of those who come together to grace their story and carry their legacy forward. Thank you for contributing to these stories in 2018. Together we bring hope for the journey onward!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

GiveBIG


GiveBIG” says my inbox on this annual day where every donation dollar to Puget Sound charities is doubled by the Seattle Foundation. Doubling is good, tripling is even better. My employer, PayPal, will take care of that. I was recently asked how to motivate people to maintain, let alone increase their charitable giving with the elimination of tax benefits. I’ll answer that with another gift I’ll make today to a charity that is not based in Washington but that lives close to my heart. You see, the world lost a wonderful woman this week, one that I’m blessed to have called friend. The disease that robbed Gretchen of her prime won’t be fought entirely by private funding and decreasingly by government funding. I’ve watched what happens when those funds dry up. The labs shut down. Researchers lose their jobs. The work stops.


My giving is motivated by my heart and each little victory won on an arduous journey taken by those who won’t stop seeking the solutions we insist on making a reality. If my incessant peddling or pedaling inspires you to pitch in, I am blessed. Every dollar donated is a gift and the rewards go far beyond a tax break. To someone, our rewards are priceless.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Unfinished Business

We’re late for our plane but have to rush back for the pamphlets. People need to know! – December 1994

Bret put a massive effort into educating everyone he knew and testing every new treatment introduced in those most desperate early days in the fight against HIV/AIDS, though it saddens me to think he’d never realize the difference he made. Instead, Bret died talking about what more he could have done if not for laws or stigma or a simple lack of time. Perhaps why I feel so compelled to keep HIV/AIDS in my sights, why I’m humbly grateful for the lives saved by your donations and why every ride is a victory yet each falls short of the finish line.

Today is the last day of 2017, an important time to look back on what we accomplished together this year to move closer to an AIDS-free world before turning attention to what is yet undone. In May, the AIDS Vaccine 200 was abbreviated by a massive rainstorm that started as I finished the first 100 miles of day one and cancelled day 2. The bus ride back to Atlanta began in the somber way of any unfinished goal until every rider was struck by the realization of a goal had already been achieved. These 100 cyclists raised a record $358,500 to continue HIV/AIDS vaccine research and support. You contributed to that record before a single cyclist had pedaled one mile from Emory University!

The Fred Hutch Obliteride in August had less dramatic weather (for 2-day riders) and more dramatic climbs of every kind with several hundred cyclists stretching themselves to work harder, raise more money and push immunotherapy closer to defeating cancer and HIV/AIDS - $2,800,000 closer!

Ending AIDS is my unfinished business but unlike Bret, I’m blessed by hindsight stretching back many years that involved thousands more people than miles and I can see how every contribution, large and small, has saved lives and is bringing us closer to ending AIDS. Thank you for being there in my rear-view mirror, for reading this message year after year and believing that AIDS will one day be history, like 2017.