By KJ Philp, June 2015 Issue.
Phoenix resident Katy Scienski will hit the road from May 31 to June 6, to join thousands of other participants on a seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
This is Scienski’s third year serving as a volunteer “roadie” for AIDS/LifeCycle, the world’s largest annual, single-event AIDS fundraiser.
“I am committed to AIDS/LifeCycle because I want to see an end to HIV/AIDS. I’m doing my part to support the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation so they can continue to provide critical services for the HIV-positive community and prevent new HIV infections through programs, services, and education,” Scienski said. “I look forward to spending a week on the road with the amazing community of AIDS/LifeCycle participants. We have the power to stop HIV transmission in our lifetime, and AIDS/LifeCycle plays an important role in making that happen.”
According to an AIDS/LifeCycle press release, in the seven days it takes the participants to reach Los Angeles, more than 1,000 people in the United States will become infected with HIV. Additionally, one out of every five people living with HIV nationwide is not aware of their status.
“What these cyclists and roadies contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS is truly remarkable,” said AIDS/LifeCycle Senior Director Greg Sroda. “Each year people from across the country and all over the world join us not only because the event is a life-changing experience for them, but also because the money they raise changes the lives of people living with HIV. Since the ride began in 1993, our participants have raised more than $200 million and completed more than 42,000 journeys from San Francisco to Los Angeles.”
AIDS/LifeCycle participants play a significant role in helping to promote HIV/AIDS education and awareness through outreach to hundreds of thousands of people who support their efforts. On average, each cyclist raises nearly $6,000 through their network of donors, which includes family, friends, and co-workers. Roadies are not required to fundraise, but each year they bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Echo caught up with Scienski before she hit the road and here’s what she had to say:
Echo: Everyone has a really unique reason for getting involved with such a great cause, tell us about yours.
Scienski: I blame my wife and best friends! [Laughs] My wife, Teresa Felder, found her passion when she began riding the bikes that my parents had given us … I was so proud that she found her sport of choice. At the same time, my best friend and Bay Area hockey teammate, Ellen, sent an email, asking for individual’s to help donate to her wife’s first Aids/LifeCycle ride. Her wife, Joey, a two-time $10k fundraiser, was also beginning a new passion with the bike. As we followed the amazing journey through Joey’s pictures and Ellen’s encouragement, I said to my wife, “OK, we are doing this!”
Echo: This is your third year as a roadie/volunteer; explain to our readers the importance of a roadie.
Scienski: Imagine yourself after the biggest ride you’ve ever completed: At home, you’d plop your bike wherever [and] within in seconds you’re stripped down, ready for a nice soak in the tub [then] you zap up your favorite comfort food, watch your favorite TV shows, and, the grand finale, [you hit your] nice comfortable bed. Now try to imagine doing that same ride, seven days in a row, camping in a different location every night. Where do I park my bike? Where’s my tent located? Where do I pick up my luggage? Where are the showers? Where’s the dining area? Where are the nightly events located? The roadie is the walking atlas during the ride!
Echo: Do you have any aspirations to participate as a cyclist one day?
Scienski: Yes! I was actually registered as a cyclist in 2013. December of 2012, my wife and I had just finished our 50 mile training mark with a successful ride through Sunset Crater in Flagstaff. Unfortunately, a week later, I found myself in the emergency room battling an infection. Between December and May, I was in the hospital four times. While I was resting in bed, I was constantly on the phone with cycle and roadie reps, trying to find a position that I could be involved with, in order to be out there with my wife … Unfortunately, the great outdoors were harsh conditions for my injury. Physically, I made it as far as I could, eventually pulling the plug on Day 3 in Paso Robles. I believe things happen for a reason! This may be an indication that I’d make a better roadie, who knows?
(Editor’s Note: Scienski’s wife, Teresa Felder, will be participating the AIDS/LifeCycle for her third year as a cyclist.)
Echo: What will these seven days feel like for you?
Scienski: I want to feel as tired as the cyclists at the end of the day. As the week progresses, my fellow roadies will catch me being goofy at 7 a.m. or … falling asleep with a bag of goldfish crackers in my hand. This is typical behavior of “overdrive,” and it’s the best feeling in the world! I think by Wednesday, you forget what day it is! There is always this friendly on-going debate: Who has the toughest part on the ride, roadie or cyclist? I credit my fellow cyclist’s and they end up crediting the roadies, so basically, we are responsible for getting each other through the ride!
Echo: Describe a typical day on the road.
Scienski: With my previous assignments, my wife and I were usually eating breakfast around 5 a.m. I enjoy pepping up my fellow roadies who are working in the food service line. It also gives Teresa and I the chance to chat and help motivate her before she hits the road. Then the roadies are responsible for packing up at the camp, usually done by 9 a.m. Depending on your assignment, we depart by car, bus or gear truck and usually arrive at the next camp around noon. I love to take pictures of the camp when we arrive … it’s a great way to capture the camp life. After lunch, it’s time to set up camp for the cyclists – full throttle until dinner time, which is usually around 6 p.m. The latest that I’ve had to work would be 9 p.m.
Echo:Tell us about your most memorable experience from past rides.
Scienski: I think I would end up in divorce court if I didn’t say it was my wedding! [Laughs] We were very honored to be part of a new tradition that the Aids/Lifecycle introduce on last year’s ride. First of all, the Aids/Lifecycle works really hard each year to bring new ideas for the upcoming rides. Last year, along with Starbucks VIA, the Aids/Lifecycle team introduced the “Love Bubble.” Because same-sex marriages were officially recognized in the state of California, participants were encouraged to get married during the ride. After 13 years of waiting, Teresa Felder and I finally said, “I Do” on Day 5 in Lompoc, Calif. We were very honored to have Joey, Ellen, and Neil Giuliano, as our bridesmaids and brides man. As we finished the ceremony, we could see all these beautiful people – the Aids/Lifecycle Family – among us.
Echo: Have you ever worked or volunteered with HIV/AIDS organizations or causes in the past? If so, tell me about those experiences.
Scienski: The Aids/LifeCycle ride is my first experience. Because the 2013 ride was so influential, it made me want to get involved with our community – especially from a cycling perspective. I had the privilege to meet Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton during the Free HIV Testing at Walgreens. In the past three years, as individual, I’ve become more familiar with the organizations [and] looking for ways to structure a strong Aids/LifeCycle development with the community.
Echo: If you could only communicate one single message through this whole experience, what would it be?
Echo: Anything else you’d like to add?
Scienski: This event will really change your life … Cycling has become my outlet for stress. Every time I get on my bike, I feel so alive, and it’s hard for me to stop pedaling.