more than a numbers game
you can't put a price on people
by pete weber
The weekend of June 21-22, almost a thousand cyclists completed the Tour De Friends, a 330 mile fundraising bike ride from Raleigh NC to Washington DC. All of the riders made it, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised to help people living with HIV and AIDS. But was it a success? It's not a simple matter of finances, not just profit minus expense equals net, where net must be a certain dollar amount. There are intangible returns. Should the Tour de Friends AIDS ride happen every year if the net profit is only modest? As someone who just rode in this Tour; who slept on hard gymnasium floors after battling the elements, and loved every minute of it; my only answer can be a resounding “YES!” I’ll tell you why….
The Tour raises money for organizations in Raleigh, Richmond and DC which help people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. There are many fundraisers and organizations raising money for AIDS research. This Tour is one of the few fundraisers directly helping the people who need it now, the people who are living with AIDS/HIV today.
This Tour was an incredible experience because for four days the crew and riders lived in a utopian society. If a rider was on the side of the road with a flat, a dozen people would pull over to help him fix it. Every other rider to pass by would ask if he was ok. When traveling up steep hills, riders would get off of their bikes and cheer on other riders. At every pit stop corps workers gave us ice bags to put around our necks to cool us, and filled our water bottles. They asked questions of genuine concern to make sure we were having a healthy and safe ride. At the end of a hard day, we ate together under a big tent like a family, and talked about the trials of the day’s events. We held talent shows where we laughed, and even cried. One rider performed a song about faith and love by signing the words so his deaf wife could share in the pain he felt for the brother he lost to AIDS. For four days we lived in world where everyone was a brother or a sister, working for something much bigger than any one man or woman. This Tour of friends became a community, and that sense of community will stay with us long after the ride.
But the people of Warrenton NC taught me that the awesome power of the Tour goes even further. They showed me that we as riders and corps workers touched the lives of a community outside of our own.
Having seen the Ride as it traveled through their town in past years, the people of Warrenton held a welcoming event for us as we rode through their streets; not because they had to, but because they wanted to. The music of the band and the cheering of the crowd echoed through the town as we approached. Almost as loud were the children chanting, “Thank You, Riders.” And once we arrived at the town’s center we were welcomed with ice cream and watermelon. We were offered the use of the facilities in all of their buildings. One store owner displayed a guest book for the riders to sign and tell from where they came. School children offered ribbons to be hung on the branches of the trees in the courtyard. Along one side we wrote our names; along the other we wrote messages or the names of people in whose memory we were riding. Margaret, the Mayor Pro-tem, pinned us with buttons which read, “I’ve got friends in Warren County NC.” Plenty of pictures were taken and everywhere you looked there were smiles on faces.
But what touched me most, was when I looked over to see a group of people dancing to the rhythm of a local Afro-American drum band. The group was comprised of costumed dancers in traditional wear, the elders of Warrenton, their children and some riders and corps members of the Tour. I realized this Ride had brought communities together and created a place where awareness and education about HIV/AIDS could happen. That growing, changing circle of dancers represents what the world should be – a unity of people celebrating both their diversity and their common goal; a goal of eradicating a dreadful disease from the populations of the world through education and awareness.
The Tour touched the lives of a community. In turn, that small community validated that what we are doing has purpose. Our friends in Warrenton embraced the spirit of the Ride, and it lives there still. You can’t put a price on that.
6.27.03 @ 11:19a
6.27.03 @ 2:53p
The first sentence in the first California AIDS Ride journal I kept: "I have pedaled into Utopia." And the rest of my journal entries had many of the same wonderful observations you wrote about.
The sad thing is, even the world's greatest writer couldn't adequately explain what a magical experience something like this is.
6.27.03 @ 5:50p
Hey, c'mon Matt, I thought I did that last year....
Nice job Pete. You make it easy to see how it's so much more than a bike ride. Bravo.
6.29.03 @ 11:19a
A long time ago, a man taught me that one cannot take anything from this world with you. So, one should give of themselves and share peace and that's what you can take with you. You shared your soul with others. I passed that on to my children. You learned well, Pete. The words to live are so simple. People keep messing them up so as to rationalize their behavior. Because you cared for His people, God's got a smile on His face. I know Him.
6.29.03 @ 1:32p
Bravoesque ! Privaledge to have the same blood. Although mine is more red (nag nag nag ..little bro)
7.11.03 @ 10:44a
Pete, did you keep a journal while on the ride? I kept one both years and love going back and reading through it.
7.11.03 @ 10:52a
On bike rides of distances such as these, do the riders play games like who can pop a wheely the longest, or, who can ride with no hands the longest?
Seems like an extra way to raise money. "extra $.05 donation for every mile I ride a wheely."
7.11.03 @ 11:21a
It'd be more like whoever ends up with the most saddle sores, or the worst farmer tan.
7.11.03 @ 11:47a
Very cool! I saw this also made the local triangle area magazine The Independent. Rock on!
7.14.03 @ 9:34p
That's 'cause Pete works there. 'Way to pull out all the shots, baby!