Derwin Hall likes the athletic side of LSR, but what he loves most is the chance to give back to the community
M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer
At 41, Derwin Hall is a man in the prime of life. But with a full decade’s experience under his belt as a Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS participant, he is — at least in LSR terms — an “old timer.”
For nine of those 10 years Hall, a Merck pharmaceuticals community liaison and HIV/AIDS educator, has been a cyclist. The one year he didn’t ride, he served as a delivery driver, bringing food and water to the LSR pit crew members.
As an event, Hall says, the Lone Star Ride speaks to his earliest love: Sports.
“I’ve been athletic my entire life,” Hall says. “[I had] college scholarships in track and field. I was a [sprinter].”
Hall first participated in the final Texas Tanqueray AIDS Ride in 2000, the year before the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS organization held its first event. A gallant thrift store 10-speed took him the full distance — 325 miles — between Houston and Dallas.
The memory of an HIV-positive man Hall dated in the early 1990s help stir him to become involved with both rides. That relationship rocked Hall’s world; what he learned about the disease and those who live with it changed him forever.
“Because of [this man] and my love for him, I ended up volunteering and then working in the HIV field,” he recalls. “Every job I’ve ever had [since] in my adult life has been with AIDS service organizations.”
The LSR is one ride Hall says he would never not do. What the event stands for is what keeps him coming back year after year.
“[The Lone Star Ride gives] dollars to agencies that provide services to the population that has been impacted by a devastating disease,” he explains. “And since [fighting HIV/AIDS] has been my passion and career pursuit, that’s why I’m here.”
Hall’s commitment to Lone Star Ride has not stopped him from finding other ways to give back, not just to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, but to the community as a whole.
“I’ve done a number of local rides that may not be HIV/AIDS specific,” he says. “They can be for multiple sclerosis, they could be for cancer. They could be for anything.”
Hall’s penchant for helping others is clearly visible in how he approaches LSR itself. For example, when it comes to some of the event’s notoriously difficult hill climbs, Hall has made it a point to assist the less nimble among his fellow riders rather than peddle and pump to the top and continue on alone.
“I’ve turned around, gone back down and helped coach and motivate other riders that might be struggling a little more to get up the hill,” he says. “It’s not a race, [after all]; it’s a ride.”
For all that Hall has given to the LSR as a fundraiser, volunteer and “hill climber’s angel,” he has also gotten help himself during the course of this event. One year, this most seasoned of riders found that somewhere along his path, he’d somehow taken a wrong turn.
“Although I was lost,” Hall says somewhat sheepishly, “people were out there looking for me. [They] eventually found me and got me back on the right track.”
With so much support available to LSR participants regardless of who they are, it’s no wonder that Hall loves the event as much as he does.
“I have seen people of all races, all ages, all sizes, heights and weights doing this bike ride. So it’s not just for the physically fit. It’s for those interested in giving back to the community.
“Or,” he adds, a warm and knowing humility inflecting his voice, “those who just want to be challenged.”
Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.