AIDS Lifecycle - Ride to end AIDS

Sean is a member of the 10K Club! Please give generously!

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I'm a Roadie!

I'm back to support the riders for ALC 12! 

My goal is to raise the highest amount of money of any of the roadies! Last year the top earner was around 12K, and I KNOW I can get to that number! 

My first step was throwing a benefit in September - a staged reading of the VALLEY OF THE DOLLS screenplay, featuring some of L.A.'s most talented comic actors. We raised $1300!

Next was the MOMMIE DEAREST staged reading in February - we raised $1500 (still waiting to get the check from the theater, so it hasn't posted to my total yet) 

Now that I've almost hit my goal if $10k, I've raised it to $12,345.67! Because I'm just that much of a nerd!

May 1rst - Today I hit AND PASSED my goal of $10k! Onward to $12,345.67!

May 2nd - I've changed my goal to $17,716.00. Why? Because that will make me the #1 FUNDRAISING ROADIE IN THE HISTORY OF THE RIDE! I'm so close! I have just under a month - I can do this!

May 16 - I am humbled by the generosity of friends and teammates who have given so much to my fundraising. As of today, I have surpassed my goal, and am now the #1 fundraising Roadie in the history of ALC. To say I'm stunned is a massive understatement. Stunned, excited, grateful, and thrilled to be able to help my donors become part of this amazing process. I think of my friend Joey often these days, and I hope he can see the inspiring people his passing has brought into my life. But I'm not finished - you can't have too much money! So I've raised my goal, and will continue to fundraise until the last minute. THANK YOU to everyone who has donated, spread the word, or just cheered me on. We're ALL making a difference.

Here is a post I wrote last year after ALC 11, my first year on the ride. It really was a transformative experience, and I hope you'll join me in being part of the solution again this year!

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In 1997 my roommate and best fried, Joey Meyer, died suddenly from AIDS-related complications.

You would think that with that horrible loss in my history I would be first in line to sign up for the AIDS/Lifecycle. But I have to be brutally honest - when my friend died, I felt like I gave at the office. Joey was gone, I couldn't help him any more, so that was that. These feelings lasted for over a decade. It was never something I said out loud, or dwelled on too deeply, because I knew, deep down, that that excuse was bullshit. But it was my excuse and I stuck to it.

Then my husband signed up for AIDS/Lifecycle 2012. I thought about signing up for half a second, did one training ride (horrible), and retreated to my previous position on the matter. But as the months passed, and Matt rode deeper and deeper into training and the event itself, my interest in participating grew. I secretly called up my friend, ALC Associate Director James Ray, and had him sign me up as a roadie.

Now my reason for signing up to roadie was to surprise my husband, support him and get my Husband of the Year Award. I was excited to be there, looking forward to the work, happy to be part of the process, but still not completely invested in the emotional part of the ride. James helped me cover my tracks until Day Zero in San Francisco. Surprise!

At Day Zero Orientation, on a table were banners with words like "Courage" "Strength", etc., embroidered along the sides, and dozens of magic markers. People had been signing the banners, and I wrote, "I'm am roadie-ing for Joey Meyer, who died in 1997. I still miss him." The connection between the ride and me started to change...

During the Day One Opening Ceremonies, in the auditorium where all 3,000 participants were gathered, the banners were carried into the auditorium by the Pos Pedalers alongside the Riderless Bike. I was close enough to actually see my signature on the banner, and a feeling I can't describe washed over me. Sadness? Mixed with what, exactly? I wasn't sure, but crying in front of a crowd of strangers just wasn't my bag. But inside, more cracks in the armor...

Day One was our easy day ("Enjoy it! Don’t get used to it!" my team captains, Ron and Colleen, advised/warned us.), so I wandered around camp, watched my husband ride in, ate dinner and hit the sack.

Day Two began at 12:01 A.M. for me. My tentmate had sleep apnea, which he neglected to warn me about, and didn't bring his C-PAP because it was "too heavy." So I lay in our tent, awake, from 10 P.M. Day One until I finally got up at 4 A.M. Day Two. I hadn't slept from Day Zero to Day One, either, as I had to be at a shuttle bus to load luggage at 3:15 A.M. Math isn't my strong suit, but at some point on Day Two I'd been up for 48 hours.

And then the rain began.

Now, not all roadie teams have as hard a job as Pack Up. In fact, Pack Up might have the hardest job of all the teams. Our day begins at 4:30 A.M. pulling garbage from the dining tent. After breakfast (around 7 AM) we start loading the hundreds of chairs and tables into trucks; then gathering hundreds of full, heavy trash bags from all over camp and tossing them into the dumpsters; then scouring the entire camp picking up random garbage (yes, even cigarette butts), ALC garbage cans, and snagging everything left behind by all the other departments; and finally getting the park ranger to sign off on the clean up. We leave camp anywhere between 11 A.M. (early) and 2 P.M. (way late). We drive to the next camp, help unload the tables and chairs; set out the garbage cans and hand sanitizers at all the Porta-Potties and all over camp; then get our bags and set up our tents. We have a brief break, then garbage duty for dinner starts at 5 PM and lasts (in shifts) until 9 P.M. Then bed. I was exhausted all day, every day. There were days on the ride I genuinely didn’t know how I'd be able to keep working. And yet I did.

Rain killed the ride for most of the riders on Day Two, but the roadies still had to work. I got to know my team as we ran around in the rain straight and gay, men and women, all ages (Our oldest in their 60's, our youngest early 20's), white collar upper management types to blue collar labor types, some had kids (with one riding), some were married (their spouse riding). Some had been affected by AIDS directly, either personally or via a close friend or family member; some just wanted to contribute what they could toward a cure. A genuine cross section of society in our team of 24, and everyone had a reason to be invested in the cause. When we finally left the Day One camp on Day Two, I realized that no one was complaining about the work. Yes, we complained about the rain and the cold and the exhaustion, but no one complained about picking up garbage. My first impressions of many of our team were revealed to be wildly inaccurate.

When I was finally able to catch my breath in my tent later that day (convinced it would blow away in the gale force winds that followed the rain and us to the Day Two camp), I was so exhausted, I started crying. But I wasn't sad. Far from it. I realized I was having an incredible time. We moved a city that day, in the rain, so thousands of riders could participate in the largest AIDS fundraising event in the country. And when one of my rider friends told me how disappointed he was that he didn't get to ride the entire route because of the rain, I listened, sympathized and tried to make him feel better about it. As Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian center would say during the evening announcements every night, "You (I) made a difference today."

Although I wish Joey were still alive, I realize that had he not died, I may not have been as receptive to the emotional aspect of the ride as I ultimately was. Maybe I would have signed up for the ride, but without that personal connection maybe I would have felt more tired, less invested, over it after that first day of rain.

On Day Zero (Orientation) and Day One, every time I met someone new, either with my husband or just randomly while I was working, I'd tell them, "I’m a roadie!" It was just something that came out of my mouth, a verbal nametag. Again, excited to be there, but more in the context of someone waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland.

But on Day Two, as I lay in my tent, exhausted, soaked from the rain, thinking about what we'd done that day, and Joey, the answer to the question "What are you doing on the ride?" changed from "I'm a roadie," to "I am a roadie." It's not my job. It's who I am.

My heart broke open at that moment, and was filled every day after with all the ride had to offer. I realized I could turn to any one next to me anywhere in line for meals, gear and tent pick up, the shower truck and ask "Why are you on the ride?" And they would just start talking. Everyone on the ride had a reason to be there, and they all wanted to talk about it. Crying in front of strangers was now on the menu, and I did it almost three times a day.

This is not hyperbole I worked harder on ALC 2012 than I've ever worked in my life. And I had an amazing time.

I made a difference every day for seven days. I am a roadie. And I belong here.

And I'm going back next year.

My Personal Web Log

Topics

Wow
Wow. As of yesterday, I am now the #1 roadie fundraiser for a single year in the history of AIDS/LifeCycle.

I've been telling people I have a hard time accepting praise and generosity, but that's only partly true. I mean, I did study drama at University of Montana. I like being on stage, I like having my plays performed, and I'm more than happy to accept praise for stuff that I feel is mostly based on my showbizzy skill set.

Last year during my first AIDS/LifeCycle, I watched the top fundraising roadie of 2012 speak to the crowd on Roadie Day (Day 5) and thought, "Next year that's going to be me." I wasn't sure how I'd actually accomplish that feat, but Matt and I had raised enough money to put him in the Top 50, so how hard could it be? I also felt like I had a story to share that would be interesting. And let's face it, I love standing behind a microphone in front of a captive audience.

What I didn't realize when I set the goal of "#1 roadie fundraiser for 2013" ("#1 for a single year in the history of the ride" wasn't even a consideration at that point) was how much of a group effort it would be to meet that goal. My husband, teammates, friends, strangers, tons of folks all helped me in many different ways. As I moved closer to "#1 roadie of 2013," then passed it, then moved closer to "#1 roadie for a single year in the history of the ride," then passed it, and the "Congrats!" started to roll in, I realized labeling this whole business "my" goal just sounded...greedy. I couldn't accept all those congratulations at face value that would be taking too much credit.

The other thing that bothered me with the phrase "my goal" was it didn't include the words "HIV/AIDS patients." Despite shilling my potential #1 status as a fundraising tactic, in my heart I'm doing this for my friends who have HIV/AIDS. Knowing my friend Alexandra will always have a place to go for treatment if she finds herself in need gives me 100x more joy than winning the fundraising contest. (And if you know me, you know how much I love to win. Spoiler: A LOT.) (And yes, I know it's not a contest...But it sort of is...)

I truly believe this - If you donated to me, or spread the word, or cheered me on, this is *our* goal. It was important to you, for whatever reasons, to participate in this effort, and now success! We get to pat ourselves on the back because we're F-ing awesome. Instead of "Sean Abley is the #1 fundraising roadie for a single year in the history of ALC," let's rename the goal, "Let's raise a huge F-ing pile of cash together for HIV/AIDS patients." For that I will absolutely accept your congratulations, and hand them right back to you along with a huge "Thank you!" WE DID IT!!

I want to acknowledge a few folks who are ALC superstars in my book: First, of course, my husband Matt. You are amazing, and deserve so much credit for all the work you did for me - donate to him!; the New Bear Republic team, the best bunch of men and women one could hope for as teammates - donate to them!; Dawn Ruggeroli-Collins, as of now the #2 fundraising roadie of 2013. She also passed $10k this year, one of only a handful of roadies to do so in the history of the ride donate to her!; Traci Dinwiddie, as of now the #2 fundraiser of 2013, and the #1 fundraising woman in the history of the ride. She works at fundraising as hard or harder than anyone I know, and she's raised almost $80k to date! Get her to $100k!; my Pack Up team mate, Mark Kees, who has donated to my ride even as he is fundraising himself. He's always out there shilling for ALC, so donate to him!; my pal Donovan Whitehurst, who is inches away from his $15k goal - donate to him! Jim Gibson, Cyclist Rep Marni Zimlin, Jim Rudolph and Janelle Goforth, my peeps on the inside - thanks for your support!

by Sean Abley on Sat, May 18, 2013 @ 3:52 PM

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