Community plays a big role in the work and life of the Presence team. Presence is well known for our social impact practice. We have delivered over 75 projects for nonprofits and other organizations that contribute to improving the world around us, like Vibrant Planet, Healthier Kids Foundation, and Linked Learning Alliance. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Presence also hosted quarterly volunteer activities. Presence team members are well known for living the value of “presence” in their communities.
Demonstrating Presence’s commitment to giving back and looking to connect to his community, Operations Manager Anthony Galura signed up for the AIDS/Lifecycle earlier this year. The Lifecycle is a fundraising and community event during which bikers ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in support of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Not a big biker previously, Anthony jumped in with both feet and recruited Dale Knauss, Technical Director, and Regina Galieva, long-time friend and collaborator of Presence, to join him on this adventure. With nearly $12,000 raised and 545 miles of riding each ahead of them, Presence's newly formed cycling team is gearing up to hit the road on the AIDS/Lifecycle.
A Fixture in the Community
The AIDS/Lifecycle event holds a venerated position in San Francisco and Los Angeles, well known throughout the community for the funding it has provided to address this critical public health issue. While AIDS/HIV might not be in the news on a daily basis like it was at the end of the 20th century, the work to address this epidemic is no less important today. Over 1.2 million people live with AIDS/HIV in the U.S. now, with new infections disproportionately impacting communities of color.
Since 1993, when the ride started as the California AIDS Ride, volunteers have been raising funds and awareness for individuals who have AIDS and HIV and those who are at risk. The organization behind the ride reports that volunteers have raised more than $200 million and rode more than 42,000 journeys in support of the cause. Funds support the work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, who invest the money into access for health and wellness services, treatment, housing, HIV testing, medical supplies, therapy, and advocacy. The AID/Lifecycle organization hosts the ride, offering an extensive amount of assistance to riders, including regular training rides that volunteers can join. Anthony remarked, ”AIDS/Lifecycle is extremely supportive and has so many resources to help you succeed in the ride. It is wild to me how great the team at AIDS/Lifecycle has been. From the moment I signed up, there was someone emailing me …pouring out all this information.”
AID/Lifecycle volunteers work together in a variety of ways to power the event. Volunteer riders raise at least $3000 from family, friends, and supporters and ride down the coast between Northern and Southern California over seven days. This year, they will leave San Francisco on June 5 and arrive in Los Angeles on June 11 after climbing over 23,000 feet. Volunteers who are not ready to take on the full ride can help as a roadie on one of several teams, including the medical, pack-up, bike parking, bike tech, and advance set-up teams. These amazing individuals join for the full seven days to support bikers by setting up, running and taking down the camp where the bikers live between rides. Volunteers with less time can help with the start and finish line administration and tasks.
Collaboration Outside the Office
Collaboration is ingrained in every aspect of Presence client projects. Anthony took this value to heart when inviting Dale and Regina to sign up for the AIDS/Lifecycle. The Presence leadership team enthusiastically agreed to sponsor the team of three riders in their pursuits. Biking is in the DNA of the Presence team. CEO Jason Monberg has long been a big biker, riding home from a Presence team camping trip one year.
Corporate team sponsors sign up to match funds that team riders raise and offer additional incentives to make fundraising goals, such as a complimentary hotel room or flight home at the end of the ride. AIDS/Lifecycle staff were particularly impressed that Anthony was able to field a 3-person team the first year of Presence’s sponsorship. Usually much bigger corporations start with just one rider on their corporate team the first year!
Riding together in June will provide encouragement for the three Presence riders, but the support started much earlier. Anthony and Dale have been riding together on weekends several times a month since January, gradually increasing their distance from 20 to 100 miles each ride. They have been getting help from an unexpected place. Managing Director/ Founder of GBA Gregor Berkowitz, a former Presence client, has ridden in several past AIDS/Lifecycles and has been coaching Dale and Anthony on their preparation for the ride, joining them on most training rides.
Motivation for the Miles
Anthony, Dale, and Regina bring unique and shared motivations to the 2022 AIDS/Lifecycle ride. Completing all 545 miles is a huge personal goal for all three. They are new to long distance bike rides, and look forward to that personal achievement. Dale reflected on his motivation by saying, “it’s an awesome personal challenge to go through seven days of riding, and sounds like something super memorable for the rest of my life….Anthony and I have become really good friends throughout the process and I get to have my good friend Regina along for the ride as well.”
Anthony and Regina both spoke about their desire to connect with their local LGBTQ community on the ride. “For me personally as a gay male, AIDS/HIV is a constant in my community.” Anthony explained. “I had heard about the ride, and it always seemed like something that was unreachable since I was never a biker prior. One of my main reasons is to continue to raise awareness. I had heard about AIDS/HIV growing up as gay, but it was something that was never talked about. Continuing the conversation is key; there are a lot of people who are still affected…Coming through COVID and not seeing many people, I also needed some sort of outlet to build up my community.”
Regina had previously volunteered at the SF LGBT Center pre-COVID, but the pandemic isolated many people from connecting. Regina was looking to reach out after many months of sheltering in place. “I had heard about this ride because I follow a lot of different queer groups. It’s very popular and famous. Everyone knows it is really challenging, but everyone knows it’s also very important. I was talking to a representative of a riders’ club from Southern California. They described this whole seven day ride as a a nonstop celebration of queerness. Along with the celebration, there are a lot of important conversations that happen along the ride which inspired me,” she said. Camaraderie and community will help these three riders take on and achieve this personal goal.
Riding to the End
The journey in preparing for the AIDS/Lifecycle has taught these novice bike riders a love of bike riding. Anthony spoke about enjoying the connection to the world around him and focus that riding brings to his mind.
Regina thrives on physical challenges and loves the ups and downs that hill riding provides. She has been focused on training for the quite numerous hill climbs by doing significant elevation workouts regularly. She’ll need that stamina for the final few miles as the ride finishes up a steep climb (hello Boston Marathon Heartbreak Hill!).
Dale marvels at the amazingly beautiful landscape around the Bay Area that he has been able to enjoy on his bike, including seeing so much of Marin County while training and getting to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge regularly.
Anthony, Dale, and Regina are excited to jump on their bikes for the ride to Los Angeles with the Presence AIDS/Lifecycle team, but they are not quite done preparing. Can you help them by donating to their ride?
Anthony Galura - who is riding on his birthday!
Next year, you can join the Presence AIDS/Lifecycle team with Anthony, Dale, and Regina! If you are interested in considering a career with Presence, check out open jobs here.