Gilberto Diaz was literally within shouting distance of the finish to the 2010 Ride for AIDS Chicago when disaster struck. He was just outside the rider holding area at Mile 199.5 of the two-day, 200-mile trek when his derailleur broke.
Enter Richard Cordova. He gave Diaz his bike, so Diaz could ride across the finish line.
"Seeing his face and watching him ride the last 500 yards across the finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life," Cordova said. "The Ride is about accomplishment, sacrifice, and intense pride."
Building friendships and supporting a cause, too, of course.
Cordova, 33, who lives in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, is now the Director of Athletic Events for the Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) the benefactor of the annual Ride for AIDS Chicago. He has worked at TPAN for almost two years and has participated in four previous Rides ( three as a rider, one as an event executive ) . The 2012 Ride will be Cordova's fifth.
The 2011 Ride had 225 Riders and raised more than $538,000. This summer, TPAN organizers are shooting for over 350 riders, $600,000 in individual donations, and $150,000 in corporate sponsorships.
"TPAN is one of the organizations that helps save and turn lives around for the better. I know this because that's exactly what they did for me," said TPAN client Evany Turk, 33, of Chicago. "The staff is friendly, welcoming, understanding and intelligent, which helps when you're in a dark place. The programs are taught well, and it gives you great motivation to know that it's being taught by someone who is going through something similar as you."
Such as, Cordova, who is HIV-positive.
"Living with HIV, it's important for me to participate in these types of endurance events," Cordova said. "Knowing that I am stronger than my disease is important to me. In addition, helping to support other ( HIV ) -positive people is important to me, too. I want all people impacted by HIV to feel as strong and empowered as I do."
The Ride for AIDS Chicago is scheduled for July 14-15, traveling from the Evanston to Elkhorne, Wisc, and back.
"An eight-person executive committee, over 37 captains and co-captains, and the staff at TPAN will make sure that fundraising goals are met and that we produce a safe, challenging, and rewarding experience for all participants," Cordova said. "We already have such an engaged, vibrant group of riders and crew members signed up this year. It's really great seeing so many people who are invested in their community."
The Riders annually cross all communities, and even include celebrities. Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and her husband were riders in 2011, which Cordova said "is so meaningfulshe definitely enhances the weight of the event."
Riders are required to raise $1,000 while crew members are encouraged to raise $500. Registration is $100, which helps offset the cost of producing the event. "We ( TPAN ) remain committed to returning 100 percent of the money raised back to the beneficiaries," Cordova said. "Corporate sponsorships, registration fees, and in-kind donations help offset the many costs of producing the event."
James Sumers was the top fundraiser in 2011, collecting more than $16,000 for TPAN.
"Each year the Ride gets bigger and better through increased participation and fundraising," said Cordova, who noted that a new, special Closing Ceremony is being planned for this year's event, "to ensure that the riders and crew members have a fun-filled, joyous and heartfelt experience."
Plus, TPAN is offering a more enhanced training program this year.
"Our structured training will cater to athletes of all skill levels," Cordova said. "Beginners and advanced riders alike will receive a 13-week training program that is fully supported with snacks, pit stops, and both emotional and mechanical support.
"The great thing about our training program is that someone can come to the event with very little training and, ( after ) 13 weeks, they can see a real change in their physical fitness. The outdoor rides build in mileage and are structured so that people can push themselves to ride a little bit faster on some of the rides. We also will do hill training, speed work, and back-to-back rides in preparation for the event. In addition, we will host various bike clinics to help prepare the riders and crew members for the Ride, including tire-changing and basics repairs."
Funds raised through the RFAC support TPAN and its partner agencies that deliver life-saving HIV services throughout the city. "Grants help support the programs at the agency, but there are always costs that the grants do not cover," Cordova said. "Unrestricted money from events like the Ride for AIDS Chicago is so crucial because it allow us to fill in the gaps."
So what if someone wants to ride, but does not own a bicycle?
The event has partnerships with Upgrade Cycle Works, Kozy's Cycle shop, and Get a Grip Cycles. Riders are eligible for discounts on bikes, parts, and service.
"One of the things I have learned in life is that if you want to go fast, then go alone. ( But ) if you want to go far, go together," said Yvette Pryor, 43, of Chicago, who will ride again in 2012. "AIDS can be lonely and isolating; no one should have to fight it alone, and through ( the ) Ride for AIDS Chicago, together, we can make a difference."
Sean Blay, 39, a Chicago resident, is riding this summer in his second consecutive RFAC. He is one of many HIV-positive riders, and was one of the seven riders last year who attached orange flags to their bicycles to signify their HIV status.
"Words cannot describe the experience I got from doing the Ride for AIDS Chicago last year and all of the support that I received from TPAN," Blay said. "It was with the great help from the volunteers and staff of TPAN that I owe much of ( joy of the 2011 Ride ) to. Not only have they provided me with a support system from the hundreds of riders and crew, but they also were there for me with emergency financial assistance when my unemployment ran out.
"TPAN helped me apply for rental assistance through the AIDS Foundation of Chicago when I couldn't pay my rent and, most important, they were able to help me get back up on my feet in finding a job through a job fair this past year.
"TPAN has done so much, not only me, but for thousands of others throughout the Chicagoland area. Last year when I did this ride, I was living with 349 T-cells. This year I am riding with over 780 T-cells, thanks ( in part to ) TPAN and the efforts that they support with the money raised from this ride. This is a truly amazing experience and I owe my future to what TPAN has given thus far."
For more information about the Ride for AIDS Chicago, to register, or to donate, go to: www.rideforaids.org or call Richard Cordova at ( 773 ) 989-9400 x230.
So what goes into the two-day Ride For AIDS Chicago?
8 cases of bananas
2 cases of oranges
2 cases of apples
8 cases of granola bars
14 cases of bagels
4 cases of peanut butter
60 pounds of pretzels
1300 gallons of water
60 pounds of pasta at dinner
48 tubes of sunscreen
20 bottles of bug spray
85 Inner Tubes used
3 Derailleur cables
2 Road brake cables
1 Mountain brake cable