Greg Sroda considers himself an “average guy” from Wisconsin who wanted to do something good for the world when he moved to California…and he has done a lot of good since then.
In October, 2011 Sroda became the Director of AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), a Non-Profit Organization that raises money for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Every year riders make the 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles and raise over $13 million. Greg joined the fight to end AIDS on his first ride in 1998, and says he was hooked from the start. He’s participated in five seasons as a rider and eight as a roadie and in 2013 will be on his twelfth ride.
The ride is a logistical feat of massive scope, with over 3000 riders from 48 states and 11 countries participating every year, 500 roadies and a mass of trucks and camp sites along the scenic California Coast line. It’s easy to imagine the profound connections one might experience along the way.
Greg remembers the special people he met on the road, and admits they are the reason he hasn’t missed a ride. He recalled one experience when a rider met him at a rest stop and hugged him with the emotion of a long lost friend. “Thank you for saving my life.” They had never met before, but they would meet every year for many years at that same rest stop. Sroda soon understood what he meant. For some, it’s the community that saves them, the journey and the experience that keeps them active and healthy. “I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget him. One year, he stopped meeting me at our usual rest stop.” Greg shared, “I don’t know what happened to him or if he’s still alive, but I’ll never forget the feeling I got from our first meeting”
So many lives have been affected by HIV disease, and so many continue the fight for a cure. Some of the ALC riders are there because of their own personal experience. Some are infected or know someone who is. Others, like Greg, ride for the challenge and for the feeling of purpose. And like Sroda, most are changed by the experience.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ride, with the last 12 under the AIDS/LifeCycle brand. As the newest Director, Sroda plans to maintain the integrity and spirit of the community while increasing fundraising goals. “At the end of the day, it’s a business, but you can’t take away from the experience because that’s what drives it. We give our riders the tools and they do all the work. So we don’t want to take away – and we won’t.”
ALC offers overwhelming support for fundraising efforts with workshops, seminars and other tools. Greg says, “For those just starting out, all you have to do is ask. Whether they’re friends, coworkers or your local barista, just share your story. If you’re willing to be vulnerable they’ll want to help you.”
The first of two kickoff events will be in Los Angeles on January 19th, followed by the San Francisco party on February 2nd. Greg Sroda considers himself an “average guy”, and who’s to say? Except if that’s true, than he’s living proof that “ordinary” people do extraordinary things every day.
For more information about the AIDS/LifeCycle, to donate to the cause, or to register to ride visit: AIDS/LifeCycle.