There’s a tremendous difference between the reasons I decided to ride in my first Lone Star Ride one year ago and why I am now riding in the second of what will hopefully be many more Lone Star Rides.
I started last year because I was selfish. Now, I ride with a passion for helping others. I began to ride with a focus on myself. I continue because I care and want to make a difference.
My involvement with Lone Star Ride started a little over a year ago when I was attending a birthday party for a friend. When I got to the party, I glanced across the room and saw the best-looking man there. I quickly made a beeline for him.
He was oh, so handsome. And after a few minutes, he began to tell me about his experience participating in the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.
Of course, I had heard of the organization. I had even thought before about getting involved. But I had never acted on the thought. I’d never had a friend who participated in the ride, and didn’t even personally know anyone who had.
My new acquaintance was so passionate about the organization, and I misinterpreted his passion for the ride as interest in me. I had visions of building strong legs, lean muscles and the chance to pretend I was an athlete. I could get in shape and meet new friends.
Thinking totally of myself, I decided to sign up.
But from that moment on, the real purposes of my ride started to become clear.
My change in attitude and expectations didn’t happen all at once, of course. I remember vividly when I began training last June.
With the help of my new friend, I began to ride. I attended a fundraising seminar, set up my fundraising website and plan, and set a financial goal.
I had no idea how much I could expect to raise in that down economy. So I set a high goal, but one I thought was realistic. I mailed letters to potential donors, followed up with thank you notes and even made a video.
I was so excited to actually be a part of a cause that benefited so many people — not just any people, but people right here in the Dallas area, some of whom I actually knew.
I was enthused beyond belief. I’ve never experienced a "runner’s high," but that best describes the way I felt as I continued my journey.
I learned about the three organizations that benefit from Lone Star Ride. Resource Center Dallas was the one I was most familiar with. Through its Nelson-Tebedo Health Center, RCD has helped me and most of my friends personally by offering HIV testing, education, counseling and other assistance. They provide the support to help and guide people through many issues in a safe and nurturing environment.
Had it not been for RCD and their services, I’m not sure I could have navigated through the process of coming out as a gay man as well as I did.
And for people affected by HIV, I know RCD’s services are even more important, especially for those in financial need. I wanted to ensure that others have the same assistance and support as I did. And as the needs of the community and society changes, I’m confident RCD will continue to play an important role in our community.
Unfortunately, not everyone shared my exuberance for the ride and its beneficiaries. Someone very close to me — a family member, no less — said, "Well, that would have to be the last charity that I would ever contribute to."
At first I couldn’t believe that I heard correctly. Then I asked, "Why do you say that? What do you mean?"
But truly, the reason for their statement didn’t really matter. The reality is that there are many who still believe HIV/AIDS doesn’t affect them. They think AIDS service organizations already have enough support. At the worst, they think people who have AIDS deserve it as a consequence of a "lifestyle choice."
Although I was not altogether surprised to hear their true feelings, I did feel the impact viscerally. But it only served to strengthen my resolve.
If someone so close to me could object to something so wonderful as Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, I would have to double my efforts not only to raise money, but to raise awareness and acceptance as well.
So my journey with LSR, which started with a "What’s in it for me?" attitude, has evolved into something much greater.
That’s not to say I still don’t have visions of strong, lean muscles, meeting new friends and being part of an incredible bonding experience. Those are important parts of the ride.
But the real reason is much greater. It’s about making a difference and knowing that you can play a real part in helping people.
It’s about hope for a cure, saving lives, prolonging lives and making life more bearable.
Those are the real treasures I have received from participating in Lone Star Ride.
If you’ve ever thought about getting involved in something bigger than yourself, something that gives to others, I urge you to get involved with Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. You will likely receive more in return than you ever thought possible. •
Stephen Mobley is a member of Team Dallas Voice. To contribute to his Lone Star Ride fundraising efforts, go to LoneStarRide.org, click on the Team Dallas Voice link and find his name.
The 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26, beginning and ending each day at the American Airlines Conference Center in Arlington. To register as a rider or crew member, to donate, or just for more information, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 11, 2010.