Where are you from and what do you do?
I am a grassroots community organizer. I grew up on the east side of Madison and moved back after graduating from college in 2008.
How did you come to be involved with AIDS Network?
My first experience with the AIDS Network was through Teens Like Us (TLU) in the late 90s when I first met Christopher Walters, who was an AIDS Network Prevention Specialist and a TLU mentor. Ten years later, I found out that a bunch of my friends were involved with the ACT Ride. I had experience with event planning, so I worked on some fundraisers and was a day volunteer on ACT 7. I remember getting ready for a James Bond-themed fundraiser I did with Bri Deyo; I was putting together these cardboard cut-outs of myself as a drag queen Bond Girl when it hit me: “I am living the life I want to live.” Many fundraisers later, I was making plans to become a professional non-profit event planner when the Ride Coordinator position opened up. It was pretty much perfect.
What is the most important role you play as ACT Ride Coordinator?
The most important role I play is keeping the different parts of the ACT community connected to the Ride and to each other. There’s the incredible steering committee of volunteers who work on this event year round, the extremely talented staff at AIDS Network, our whip-smart board of directors, as well as a whole family of people who contribute to the Ride as volunteers, riders, and sponsors. My job is to work for all of them. It’s a great honor.
What role does the ACT Ride play in our community?
The ACT Ride is the single largest fundraiser for the AIDS Network and one of the most successful grassroots events I’ve ever encountered, pulling in over $250,000 last year with an 85% return rate to AIDS Network. So we’re not just raising money from individuals who feel a personal connection to the Ride, we’re connecting those donations to individuals in the community who are receiving essential services and resources. That person-to-person connection is so important in the work we do. It’s the reason people feel so passionately about giving to the Ride year after year, and it’s at the heart of how they do that work—from educating their family members about HIV/AIDS to helping someone pitch their tent after a long day in the saddle.
Please share anything new riders can expect for this year’s Ride.
This year we’re putting together some new programming for the ACT community, both before and on the Ride. AIDS Network staff and volunteers will be presenting a series of workshops, giving people a comprehensive look at our services and educating them about issues that impact our clients—such as their immigration status or living with HIV/AIDS in a rural community. We’re also facilitating some dialogues led by Positive Pedalers (www.pospeds.org) and clients to help people of any HIV status build stronger, personal connections to each other within the ACT community and our service areas.
How can readers learn more about the ACT Ride and how they can volunteer?
You can learn more and register by visiting the ACT 9 website at www.actride.org. You’ll find lots of information there about being a rider, crewmember, day volunteer, or donor, and you can register online or make donations to someone’s sponsorship in a few simple steps. We also host Info Sessions and other events where you can meet previous ACT participants in person and chat them up about the Ride. You can find that schedule on the website, too. If you’d like to contact me directly about the Ride, call (608) 316-8619 or email me at [email protected]. I’m here to recruit you!