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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, July 21, 2001

AIDS benefit expects to bring in $1 million

By Shayna Coleon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The fourth annual Paradise Ride, which organizers describe as the largest AIDS fund-raiser in Hawai'i, will push off at 8 a.m. tomorrow from Ala Moana Beach Park.

Launched in 1998, the Paradise Ride raises at least $1 million each year and is the only event to collaborate with AIDS agencies and foundations from the other islands, said Julie Folk, director of the ride.

To participate in the continuous, weeklong event, riders from across the nation and the state pay a $300 entry fee and raise a minimum pledge commitment of $2,500. All proceeds from the event will be distributed among the local AIDS and HIV groups participating in the event.

This year, the 130 riders will embark on a 400-mile journey across O'ahu, Kaua'i, Maui and the Big Island.

"Everyone walks and runs for fund-raisers, but why not bike?" Folk said. "Since we started, we've raised money and grown progressively, and added more riders. We're building, definitely."

Tomorrow, from Ala Moana Beach Park, the riders will travel 61 miles to their campsite at Kualoa Regional Park on the Windward side, Folk said.

The next six days will be spent on the other islands and biking at least 30 miles or more a day on local scenic routes and roads.

"The first day of the ride, oh, it just gives you chicken skin," said Bill Waring. He has participated in the ride every year. "It's what I look forward to every year because it's just amazing to see this group, truly riding as one."

Most of the riders are not professional bikers or die-hard athletes, said Waring, 44, and the vice president of store planning for Hilo Hattie.

"We're not studly people, but just regular folks who want to show that HIV and AIDS are about living, not dying," Waring said. "I started because I wanted to give something back, and I lost a lot of people to that disease."

Folk said the public also should not hesitate to come up and talk to the riders during the Paradise Ride. Plus, the group will be easy to spot.

"We'll be wearing bright hibiscus-print shirts," Folk said. "When we're out on the road or out at rest stops, people have always come up to us and ask what we're doing and why we're doing it. They ask us questions about HIV and AIDS, and that's what this ride is all about. To raise awareness."