Mary Harding & Tracy Daugherty

tracy daugherty & mary harding

tracy & mary at rock eagle, may 2011

Two Seattle area bicycle enthusiasts will travel to Atlanta to join us for the BIG 10 Ride. Tracy Daugherty and Mary Harding will pedal over hill and dale to raise funds for AIDS/HIV research. Harding and Daugherty are veteran bicycle riders who met at the starting line of an AIDS Ride in 1997. They soon discovered they had more in common than the love of the open road. Both had lost a brother to AIDS. They’ve been riding together ever since, with a commitment to ride their bikes, raising awareness and funds in support of wide-ranging efforts in the fight against AIDS.

A decade later, having ridden up and down parts of both coasts and having raised thousands of dollars for a great many worthy beneficiaries, including Emory University Vaccine Center, they visualize their brothers up on some cloud giggling at them and wondering just how long these ladies are going to keep this up. You may wonder how long these ladies have been riding and just how much funds have been raised continue reading to find out.

Interview with Tracy Daugherty & Mary Harding:

Why do you participate in the AV200? Tracy and Mary are committed to doing what they can to end AIDS.  Through their fundraising efforts they ask everyone they know for donations, what sets the AV200  apart from other rides is that 100% of the funds they raise goes to directly to the beneficiary. The largest benefactor of the ride is the Vaccine Center at the Emory University. Both women believe in the innovative approach of Emory University for finding an HIV vaccine. Simply put, the AV200 makes them feel good about recruiting other riders and raising funds to end AIDS.

What makes it personal to you?  Both Tracy and Mary lost their beloved brothers to AIDS.  Tracy reflects on the fact that her brother never had a chance and knew it but spent those few last years of his life participating in every possible drug trial, convincing friends to get tested and passing out pamphlets of info to anyone who would take them.  She remembers his disappointment at discovering the University of Washington (his alma mater) wouldn’t accept his plans to donate his body to medical research because of his HIV. Because her brother died, she started to ride. She keeps riding because of what he left undone.
Mary remembers thinking about her first ride and what a gradual decision it was for her to participate.  She decided that this would not only be a physical challenge but also a uniquely personal way to honor her brother’s life and legacy.  Peter Harding worked tirelessly to educate others and was adamant about ‘living’ with AIDS – volunteering through a Bay Area public health program to speak to high school and college students as he was convinced that awareness and education about this disease was key in overcoming the hysteria, fear, and ignorance about it.  Her sons – his nephews – were beneficiaries of his generous and loving wisdom and name him as one of their heroes in life.

How did you learn about the AV 200? Since their first two AIDS vaccine research ride together, the Puget Sound Riders (Team PSR) have kept an eye out for similar rides with a high rate of return to beneficiaries.  Mary found the AV200 online several years ago and when the time was right to seek out new research beneficiaries, she suggested AV200.

Do you participate in other rides for HIV/AIDS research?  This will be Tracy’s 15th AIDS ride – most have been for HIV/AIDS research and the others for HIV/AIDS service organizations, several of which also have a strong research component. Both Tracy and Mary have rode in the Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride and the subsequent Montana AVR, after which they  created our own HIV/AIDS research ride in 2002, Breakthrough Ride for a Reason from Seattle to San Francisco, benefiting the UCSF AIDS Research Institute.

Did you do any unique fundraising activities for the event? Some of the fundraising activities that Tracy and Mary have done are garage sales, spin bike-a-thons, fundraising dinners and silent auctions.  Mary points out though that the most successful way for her to fundraise is to send a personal letter to her sponsors, along with a SASE and customized donation form plus a direct link to her fundraising page.  Also, she keeps the business cards that AV200 distributes in her car or in her bike bag on training rides so they are always ready to be distributed.  In addition, both women use a rider blog to keep people engaged and informed.

What did/do you enjoy most about participating in the event? The most memorable aspect of the event?  Tracy shares that her most memorable part of every ride is sharing stories with other riders and volunteers. Every single one inspires her in some way. In the AV200 specifically, she appreciates the hands-on involvement of the beneficiary, pre-ride, post-ride and all along the way. She also enjoys the intimate riderless bike ceremony.  For Mary, the same is true, the amazing camaraderie that one shares on an AIDS ride is unlike any other experience.

It’s apparent that everyone’s there for the same reason and when we end AIDS by fighting it with our bodies and our bikes, well, won’t that be a great party?!

– Mary Harding

What motivates you to participate in the event again especially living out of town? Tracy and Mary seek out rides with a high rate of return to the beneficiary. They also have a soft spot for beneficiaries who aren’t afraid to try innovative ideas and are sincerely appreciative of the hard work every cyclist and volunteer puts into fundraising, training, traveling, vacation time, etc. The AV200 not only met their high standards but proved that growing the ride does not have to mean sacrificing those admirable goals.

In addition, they feel that they can raise more funds for research than for AIDS service organization but with the AV200 they can do both.  Mary adds that the logistics of taking time off, packing her bike, flying cross-country – to ride 200 miles can be cumbersome, but none of those obstacles come close to what her brother and too many millions of others had to face or are facing, so she’s heading our way once again!

How many years have you been riding and raising funds for AIDS/HIV research? Tracy conservatively estimates that PSR members have been a part of over 17 different rides, including a handful she, Mary, and Jon rode before the PSR was formed as a team in 2000. All together, team members have raised over $530,000 for HIV/AIDS research, treatment, advocacy and services. Their best estimate of the amount raised strictly for beneficiaries involved with vaccine research is $450,000 over 9 rides, though a portion of every ride has made its way to research in some way, shape or form.

Wow! What an inspiration to us all! Thank you ladies for your commitment to helping find the cure!

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