Local rider pedals for an AIDS cure

Juneau woman brandishes her bicycle for event benefiting vaccine research

Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2001

Packing a brand new bicycle, Coast Guard Lt. Mary Ann Gosling leaves Friday for the Pallotta TeamWorks Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride in Fairbanks. The ride, 500 miles in six days from Fairbanks to Anchorage, has attracted 1,400 participants.

Gosling, 30, is part of a two-person Coast Guard team with Russell Davidson of Washington, D.C. Team Coast Guard will join the Spandex Avengers, Team Boboli, Team Colorado Ride for Life, AARG, Spin Daisies and the Fairbanks Mooseketeers, among others.

Originally from Hawaii, Gosling has competed in the Ten Man Triathlon there, as well as several 5-K and 10-K races in Juneau. The AIDS Vaccine Ride will be her first multi-day bicycle ride.

"I look at it as a spiritual and a physical challenge," she said. "The weather is very unpredictable."

Gosling prepared by bicycling indoors, encouraged by her children, Marshall, 7, and Mariah, 5.

"They remind me: 'Are you going to do your bike riding tonight?' They get to go to the gym and play with paint, which I forbid at home, while I work out," she said with a laugh.

Gosling has pledged to support one fund-raising event a year. Two years ago, she ran for the Leukemia Society. Last year, it was breast cancer research.

This year it's AIDS, for three reasons. One is that she met Jessica Menendez at the Juneau Racquet Club. Menendez rode in the Ride from Fairbanks to Anchorage last year, and planned to do all three Pallotta TeamWorks rides in 2001. However, on the third day of the Montana Race, she suffered severe abrasions to her leg and could not continue.

The second reason is a family one. "My brother, one year younger, is gay, and found out last year that his long-time partner is HIV positive. I took emergency leave to be with him at Christmas. It really hit me close to home that his life span is now undetermined," she said.

"I was the only one who knew in the family that he was gay. This all came out over the holidays, and it was very hard," she said.

The third reason was a coincidence - being in an Anchorage restaurant when hundreds of riders from the 2000 race limped in. "They looked so exhausted - yet they were happy they had done this. That inspired me, and my brother's situation brought it closer," Gosling said.

The average cyclist may not be able to do the Tour de France - but such cyclists can get into shape and buy their way into the Pallotta AIDS Vaccine Rides.

While many such events are coordinated by nonprofit groups, Pallotta TeamWorks is a for-profit organization - and makes no bones about it. Dan Pallotta, the Massachusetts-born businessman who created the AIDS Vaccine Rides, sees the marketing of charitable giving to those who want the "experience" - the camaraderie of the ride and the rush of crossing the finish line - as the way of the future.

"We ought to be marketing the great causes of the world every bit as creatively as BMW markets their new SUV," Pallotta said in an interview with the Boston Globe. "The 'bake-sale' mentality has got to go. Our quaint idea of charity - it ain't working." Pallotta calls his approach "I'm possible dreams," meaning it gives as much to the rider as to the charity that benefits.

Each rider in the 2001 ride from Fairbanks to Anchorage is required to raise a minimum of $3,400. Last year's ride on this route brought in $8.2 million, half of which went to AIDS research. Pallotta TeamWorks said the rest of the money went to cover salaries, advertising, ride expenses and a fee the company collects for putting on the event.

Pallotta is producing three rides in 2001: The Montana ride (July 30-Aug. 5), the Fairbanks ride, and the Canada-U.S. AIDS Vaccine Ride (Montreal to Portland, Maine, Sept. 5-9).

Meanwhile, Gosling is looking forward to more biking in her life. "I recently joined a women's riding team in Juneau which alternates on Wednesdays between riding downtown and in the valley. I am hoping we can coordinate an all-women's bike race, which I will be working with the Juneau Freewheelers on," she said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.

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