Three years ago my cousin and his wife asked me to join then on a 150 mile bike ride for the Minnesota AIDS trek. Their connection to AIDS was through this woman named Connie who had contacted AIDS from an emergency blood transfusion in 1981. She raises money to provide a camp once a year for people with AIDS.
Honestly… that first year, I was just really excited to ride my bike for 150 miles (this would be my first 150 mile ride)
The ride, was amazing… Connie’s team was 30 members strong including her husband, her sons, and their wives. I met many wonderful people that first time I rode the Minnesota AIDS Trek.
Little did I know, that would be the last Minnesota AIDS Trek.
In 2010, The Minnesota AIDS Trek cancelled due to lack of participants. Connie decided to start her own ride, our team being called The RHINOS, as she has this book that was given to her when she was very ill about being “as tough as a RHINO”. I was excited to be part of this ride, but a couple of weeks out realized my cousin and his wife were not participating this year as they had recently had their second child. They were my connection to the ride, I was nervous to go without them, but my cousin reminded me that I knew a couple of girls that did the ride that I had met at a baby shower so I connected with them.
The 150 mile rides are two days, and that first night at dinner I sat in a dining room with about 150 people and as I looked around… I wondered how I got here… to a biking event for AIDS. At that moment, it was like the room went dark and all I could see was Connie. She was sitting across the table from me talking about stigma in the early years…. suddenly I knew…
I was meant to write her story.
It took me two months to finally be brave enough to ask Connie. I knew if she said yes, we were going to do this. So in October of last year I met with her…
and she said yes.
Since then I have met with Connie almost every Monday afternoon and I record her story from then…. until now. And now, with special permission from the board, I am going to camp to observe her in action this week. Two weeks ago I rode the Rhino ride for the camp again. Getting to know Connie has made her battle personal to me. She is a little woman with a heart of gold for others with AIDS. During camp (which she offers for free) people learn the importance of taking their medications, support groups, and how important support from family and friends are.
I feel seeing camp is really going to bring the book full circle for me.
Camp dates: June 2015