Whitney Retallic Participates in Tanquerays' Northeast AIDSRide

For four days in the middle of July the Office of Student Life's Administrative Assistant Whitney Retalic rode her new mountain bike from Bear Mountain, New York, to Boston (approximately 350 miles), more than 3,000 other people in Tanqueray's Northeast AIDSRide to raise money for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, and Fenway Community Health Center. The ride more than met its goal, raising over $6 million, and, thanks to the generosity of the PMC community, Whitney raised more than $2,500 herself.

"I was able to participate in one of the most remarkable displays of humanity," Whitney said. "If I hadn't experienced it for myself, I would have said it was unbelievable. I made friends who got me through the long days and high mileage. I met people who had lost family members and other loved ones to AIDS. I met others who had not been directly affected by HIV or AIDS, but just cared enough about those who had to get on their bikes and ride for 350 miles. I rode alongside many "positive pedalers," riders who, themselves, are HIV positive.

"I witnessed hundreds of riders line the road at dusk," Whitney continued, "to cheer on the last riders coming into camp after the 107-mile day. I slept in a mobile city of 1,000 tents and showered in a semi-truck each night. I met volunteers who woke up at 3 am each day and worked straight until 9 pm to make the experience for us riders, and I believe that many of the volunteers worked much harder than I did, and they never touched a bike."

Whitney first became interested in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 1999, while studying in Namibia, when she interned at a nonprofit organization offering HIV/AIDS education and patient services in the country with the second highest rate of AIDS infection in the world. The experience impressed her with its urgency and its compelling need.

After completing her education at Wellesley College, Whitney began to work in PMC's Student Life Office. Here she met Continuing Studies student Dawn Doucette, a senior who has been living with HIV for more than nine years. Dawn reawakened Whitney's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and inspired her to commit to the AIDSRide. Dawn had faced and overcome a series of obstacles, and at the age of 26, had returned to school. She is now in the process of trying to figure out how to professionally utilize her life experiences and the strength and wisdom they have given her.

It is estimated that almost 500,000 people have HIV/AIDS in the United States, and more than 34,000,000 are infected worldwide.