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Mills students ride for AIDS cause

Sarah Gonzalez

While many Mills students will begin their summer vacations by relaxing and blowing off post-finals steam, a few women will be using the extra time to push their minds and bodies even harder. Five students are preparing themselves for the ride of a lifetime, which will not only test their strength, stamina and determination, but will raise needed funds for AIDS services as well.

The AIDS LifeCycle is an annual seven-day, 545-mile bicycle trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which supports AIDS/HIV services provided by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center.

The event will take place between June 1 to 7, but Mills juniors Lola McCall, Steffi Zarifis and Helena Stoddard have already been training for close to seven months.
Graduate student Jennifer Rosenbaum and former Mills student Tamah Augen have also been training for the event.

While gathering donations in whatever means possible, the cyclists fundraised to meet the minimum $2,500 participation fee.

The five women have different motivations for cycling in AIDS LifeCycle, but they all feel its cause is important. Working towards that cause has given them their own unique stories to tell.

McCall said that the ride was something she and her boyfriend originally intended to do together, but when they went their separate ways in January, she wanted to continue alone, to prove to herself that she was strong enough to make it to the finish line.

“I was scared to fundraise and train on my own, but as time has gone by, I’ve realized that this is a great experience for me,” McCall said. “I’m proving to myself that I can do it without him. In fact, without him, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I have, and wouldn’t have met the people that I have.”

She added, “So far, this whole experience has been a blessing.”

Stoddard said she was excited about doing the ride with a friend, and about the physical and mental challenges it would pose for her.

“I like putting myself into really extreme, uncomfortable, unusual situations, so this seemed like something very uncomfortable and unusual,” Stoddard said. “I’ve also been wanting to become more of a biker, and this would force me to do that.”

Training for the LifeCycle has not been easy for the Mills riders, with training rides increasing in intensity and mileage each month since October. McCall and Stoddard both have worked their way up to riding as many as 5 miles a day. And it hasn’t all been a leisurely roll through the park, either.

Friends who view McCall’s Facebook profile are greeted by her profile picture of a bruised and bloody knee, one of many bumps and bruises she has sustained. But, McCall said, more practice led to fewer scrape-ups.

“I fell [around] five times [my first ride], my second ride I fell twice, and my third ride I didn’t fall at all,” she said. “It just takes practice.”

Preparing their bodies for the ride was not all this event required; the riders needed to prepare their piggy banks as well. Fundraising has been a challenge for these riders, but Stoddard said working for the AIDS cause gives her a sense of accountability.

“That’s probably what keeps me going,” she said. “It means I can’t bail out.”
Stoddard raised more than the $2,500 minimum, and has set a new goal of $5,000. McCall said she is also aiming for the same goal. Cyclist Zarifis said she has her sights set on the $3000 mark. All three sold baked goods in Adams Plaza in early April and had a table at Spring Fling on May 1.

They continue to encourage other members of the Mills community to donate as much or as little as they can. They said every little bit helps.

“No donation or message of support is too small,” said Zarifis, on her homepage on

McCall agreed-the small change adds up, as evidenced by the fact that she turned in nearly $300 in small cash donations a few weeks ago. But regardless of the monetary outcome, McCall said the ride is worth it.
“No matter what, the money is going to a very worthy cause, and I know that I’ve personally been changed by the experience,” she said.

Visit the riders’ homepages and make a
donation at