U team will bike to Chicago to raise money for AIDS, HIV

by Heather Fors

Hundreds will gather in July to pedal from Minneapolis to Chicago for a common cause: the HIV virus and AIDS. And a group of about 10 University students will join this mass of two-wheelers on the 470-mile trek.
“Team U of M” was formed this year with a common goal to help those suffering from HIV and AIDS. But some team members also have personal reasons for joining the annual AIDS Ride.
“I thought I needed to take a bigger stand and raise more money for AIDS organizations,” said Gina Gough, a team member whose father died from AIDS in 1993. Gough, a College of Liberal Arts junior, has also formed a group for AIDS awareness and education called Students Teaching About AIDS and Reaching Students.
However, not all team members have had such personal experiences with the disease.
“We’re just a bunch of students who want to train together and raise money together because it’s easier and more fun,” said Heather Nordstrom, club chairperson and captain of AIDS Ride Team U of M.
This is Nordstrom’s first time riding in the event. Like many of the others on the team, she heard about it through word of mouth.
“I ride my bike all the time, so I thought it would be fun,” said Nordstrom, a CLA senior. However, once she heard about the cause, she said it added a little something extra to her desire to ride.
Meaghan Shomion, another Team U of M member, participated in AIDS Ride last year as part of the crew who rides ahead of the bicyclists to mark trails, set up tents and serve the riders. “It was a wonderful, wonderful experience — so powerful and moving,” she said.
In 1997, AIDS Ride raised more than $5 million and had more than 2,000 participants. This year ride organizers hope to raise $6 million.
Together, the University team must raise about $25,000 to $30,000. The AIDS Ride organization set a minimum amount of $2,300 that each rider must raise.
If the riders don’t raise this amount, they either must continue fund-raising efforts after the ride or pay the money from their own pockets.
The idea of raising that much money can be intimidating,
Nordstrom said. But as a group they are also trying to get funding from the University and local businesses, like TCF National Bank, in addition to their individual fund-raising efforts.
The money raised goes to seven metro area organizations whose goal is to help those inflicted with the deadly disease by feeding them and giving them shelter and support.
However, in the past, there has been some controversy about the money raised for AIDS Rides in other states.
According to a Florida Sun-Sentinel article last month, in 1997 only a nickel of every dollar donated to the Florida AIDS Ride went to the AIDS organization. In 1996, 18 cents was given from every dollar.
However, Nordstrom said all the money goes to the beneficiaries who then hire the organizations that run and advertise AIDS Ride.
The Archdiocesan AIDS Ministry Program is one such organization. Sister Joanne Lucid, director of the ministry, said the money raised last year is going toward a housing project for families with HIV- or AIDS- inflicted members.
She said last year the ministry received $72,000 from the AIDS Ride. However, she added that there is no way to estimate how much they will get this year.