Students unite for Twin Cities AIDS ride

by Ada Simanduyeva

On July 10, University student Mary Ptacin will wake up early in the morning to hop on a bicycle and trek 500 miles for a special cause. She will be among nine other University students participating in the annual Twin Cities AIDS Ride.
“It’s something that will keep me in shape and something I’m doing for other people, and it’s biking, which I love, anyway,” said Ptacin, an international relations sophomore.
Twin Cities AIDS Ride 5 is a fund-raising event for seven local beneficiaries, including Agape Homes, Open Arms of Minnesota and Samaritan HIV/AIDS Services. Several organizations, like Clare Housing, Grace House and Hope House, are foster houses for people with AIDS.
The ride begins in downtown Minneapolis, goes through Wisconsin and ends in downtown Chicago. The participants will finish the trip in five days.
“It’s not a race, it’s a ride,” said Ptacin. “Anybody can do it.”
The University’s AIDS Ride team consists of student participants working together to raise $23,000 as a group. Each member has to raise $2,300 individually to be a part of the ride. The money is raised through donations and fund raising.
Julia Charlsen, a chairwoman for the AIDS Events Minnesota Board, said the ride has raised more than $2.3 million during the past four years. The money goes directly to beneficiary programs, some of which do not receive federal funding.
“It’s an incredible production,” Charlsen said.
University nursing senior Hillary Forstrom said she is always looking for a challenge, and the AIDS ride is an opportunity to fulfill her needs.
“I really want to make an impact, and one that I can see the results of,” Forstrom said.
Dan Stone, a University natural resources senior, is also a participant in this year’s ride. His cousin was a part of the AIDS ride two years ago.
“It sounded like something that would be really fun, and not everyone can say that they rode their bike from Minneapolis to Chicago,” Stone said.
The ride demands a lot of physical training because many of the riders are not used to biking long distances. In preparation, riders take free cycling classes at a local health club. They also ride their bikes individually to prepare for outside training in the spring.
Kirk Fiereck, a University biochemistry senior, said he hopes to meet more people affected by the deadly disease. Since becoming involved in the group, Fiereck said he has learned significantly more about the AIDS epidemic.
“I think that people our age don’t take enough of an active role in society just because we’re always too concerned with our school work, and that’s not everything that has to be,” he said.
Sara Bushman, a University psychology and speech sophomore, said one of her motivations is to educate others about the disease and the people it affects. She said people assume the ride is about dying and grieving, but, in reality, it is about the living process, making the most out of the day and being a proactive individual.
“A lot of times people fear what they don’t know, and I think people had general stereotypes of the individuals involved with the AIDS ride, but the spirit of those individuals is unbeatable,” said Bushman. “That type of spirit should be shared, not only with our University campus, but our community in general.”

Ada Simanduyeva welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3223.