“Just keeping pedaling, Robert, ” were the words Robert Avalos, Senior Project Manager, AIG Life & Retirement, repeated to himself for motivation as he cycled 545 miles through some of California’s most beautiful countryside, from San Francisco all the way to Los Angeles.
The physical feat of cycling 100 miles a day (and sometimes more) for seven days straight is certainly impressive; but the reason Robert took on this challenge goes beyond the feeling of personal accomplishment and pride.
The ride, known as AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), raises funds and awareness for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The ride – which is not a race - was designed to advance the organizations’ shared interest to reduce new HIV infections and to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“As a gay male growing up in the era of AIDS, the fear of the disease, as well as contracting it, was very real and impacted many individuals within the community. Unfortunately, I have friends and family who have either passed away or manage living with the disease today. These lives were impacted in ways which I will never fully comprehend, but can completely sympathize with. I needed a way to make a difference and the ALC ride was a rewarding way to contribute to the fight,” Robert said.
With hundreds of riders united by the same mission, Robert was part of a community that selflessly motivated, looked out for, and encouraged one another during the most challenging parts of the ride, like on the third day, when the temperature reached over 100 degrees.
Along the way, the riders rode through communities that welcomed them with cheers, entertainment, excitement and stories of loved ones touched by the disease. Stops along the way included a visit to a local strawberry farm to enjoy the fruit and to a local school, where students cooked and served the riders a meal to show their support for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. The students also cooked and served rides to earn donations for their school, and this year raised enough money so that the school will be able to hire two additional teachers.
“The overall experience changed my life in more ways than I can ever express. I was honored to be touched by so many wonderful individuals who strive in life to make the world a better place,” Robert said. “With their support and encouragement, I was able to fully feel the effect of being part of the “ ALC Love Bubble ” and have been motivated to continue to positively impact the world around me.”
This project is supported by AIG’s volunteer programme.Find out more