Emory Report

August 7, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 39

'Team Vaccine' cyclists speed past pledge goal

By Eric Rangus

The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) exceeded its original fund-raising goal more than a month ahead of schedule, and the 12 Emory participants in the 510-mile Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride are not looking over their shoulders.

"We're continuing to raise funds until the ride. The more money we raise, the more comes back to the Emory Vaccine Center," said Jacqueline Fine, program administrator at the VRC and coordinator of the fund-raising effort. The inaugural bicycle ride-a six-day trek from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska, to support research for an AIDS vaccine-will take place Aug. 21­26, and almost 1,300 riders will participate.

While the campaign at Emory began last October, it didn't really get moving until February, but the effort of the spring and summer more than made up for the slow start.

Emory's original goal of $56,000 ($50,000 was the minimum to participate in the ride) was passed last month and Emory's donation total now stands at $68,000. Not only did the University administration kick in money, but 10 corporate sponsors did, as well. Despite the difficulty involved, members of Emory's "Team Vaccine" were not shy about calling powerful people and collecting money for a worthy cause.

"They really utilized contacts in the business world, and that's hard to do, asking people for money," Fine said.

"Fund raising is probably the least fun part of this," said Jeff Safrit, assistant research professor at Yerkes, and the only rider who is on the Emory faculty.

Perhaps even more important was the grunt work put in by the team's six graduate students (Rick Bright, Molly Freeman, Charles Maris, Joe Miller, Linda Perry and Barbara Sullivan). They made dozens of calls to students and friends, collecting many $20 and $30 donations that, according to Fine, may not have broken the bank but definitely showed the time and effort the participants were willing to devote.

Asked if the riders were excited about their upcoming trek, Safrit said they were more nervous than excited. "No one's ever done anything like this before," he said. "Trying to train is difficult given our schedules."

He added that no team members are exercise cyclists (although he rides a bike into work every day), and an effort of this magnitude requires more than a casual athlete. Riders will average 85 miles a day on a route that will go up and down a lot of hills.

Emory's team includes 10 riders and two support people: Fine and Lala Ahmed, wife of VRC Director Rafi Ahmed. They will be part of the "sweeps crew," which will follow the route, and pick up any riders who are unable to finish.

The ride is not competitive; the focus is simply on participation and the awareness the event will raise-in addition to the research money. Originally, Team Vaccine consisted of 15 people, but a handful had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts.

The AIDS Vaccine Ride is sponsored by Pallotta TeamWorks, which is based in Los Angeles. It has raised more than $67 million for AIDS charities. Proceeds for the upcoming ride will be divided among Emory's VRC and two other research centers. Safrit estimated that Emory will eventually raise around $70,000, and the entire effort could bring in several million dollars, some of which would return to the VRC as research money.

For more information on donating, an online pledge form is located at www.emory.edu/WHSC/YERKES/VRC/pledge.html. Or you can contact Jacqueline Fine at 404-727-3774 or jfine03@rmy.emory.edu. The Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride website is www.alaskaride.org/home.htm.

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