Ellis Dixon joined the AV200 family last year, after learning about the ride from his friend Jerry Koepp. As a pediatrician and faculty member at Emory, Ellis rides with AV for several reasons — not only for the physical goals of training for a double century, but because he firmly believes in vaccines and the ongoing research at the Emory Vaccine Center. We caught up with Ellis to ask him a few questions about his AV experience. Read on for more inspiration!
Why do you participate in the AV200? There are so many reasons. As a pediatrician, of course, I am a firm believer in vaccines. And helping to contribute/raise money for continued research for AIDS vaccines is really exciting. If you just look at one continent, Africa, and see all the millions of orphaned children because of the loss of their parents from HIV/AIDS, the millions of children living with HIV and then imagine that continent with a preventative vaccine and possibly therapeutic vaccine, it staggers the mind. It would be such a gigantic change, revolutionary. Its such a great cause and a great physical goal to train for, a double century ride.
What makes it personal for you? Sadly I have lost many wonderful friends to the AIDS epidemic. And professionally, I am on faculty with Emory so it makes me happy to contribute to a different area of Emory that I have enjoyed getting to know.
How did you hear about the AV200? I learned about it from a friend, Jerry Koepp, who told me how moving and emotional it was to be involved with. He spoke very, very highly of the event.
Do you participate in other rides for HIV/AIDS research? I have not so far.
Did you do any unique fundraising activities for the event? No, not really. My family was very supportive as well as all my colleagues and friends. Its not a hard sell to ask pediatricians to give money for an HIV vaccine. I had some great donors. A nurse I work with donated $400 to help me get to my first goal, $1500. (I kept raising my fundraising goal after that). My cousin who is a school teacher in a small town in Georgia donated $500. I raised my goal all the way to $6000 and was a little disappointed that I didn’t reach it on the day of the Ride last May. But my surgeon (who let me delay my colectomy for colon cancer so I could ride; we did the procedure the next Saturday) was watching my personal web site and the Sunday of the Ride, he donated enough to put me well over that goal. I was very moved by that.
For this upcoming Ride, I have made T-shirts for my Team and am giving them also to my last year’s donors as a way of appreciation. The T-shirt has the dates of next May’s ride so it’s also a little hint without me having to directly ask for another donation 😉
What did/do you enjoy most about participating in the event? The most memorable aspect of the event? I loved training for it with my friends. We had training rides and parties. Dan, Valarie and I wanted to do one century ride before the event and we picked one in March called the “Wheels of Fire” down in Pine Mountain. That to this day was the hardest ride I have done.
Most memorable was watching folks cross the finish line the first day and see their look of relief and excitement that they completed it. Our team had a relay vehicle and when Tanya and Joe drove in without Matt and Stephanie I was worried as they were only going to do fifty miles each day and then get in the truck. Tanya said they were going to finish it!! Each had only done 35 miles AT MOST in a single day during our training so they surprised themselves and were excited to do their first century ride. And Calvin did the Ride on a mountain bike which is utterly incredible. Calvin Calmes is a pediatric respiratory therapist at CHOA at Hughs Spalding. When I asked him to ride with us I didn’t even know if he cycled. He thought about it a couple of days and then was completely on board. He said it was a great cause and would get him in shape prior to going over to Afghanistan on active duty a few weeks after the May event. I had given him my old tri bike as he only had a mountain bike. I was the first one on my team to complete the first 100 miles on Saturday and then waited anxiously for everyone to get safely in. And it got later and later. And finally at 6pm, Calvin rolled in and my friend Valarie sitting next to me said “that’s not your bike!” Calvin had wrecked the tri bike days before the ride and did the 100 miles on a mountain bike. And anyone who cycles would know how hard and slow it would be to ride a mountain bike 100 miles. He was/is such an inspiration.
Ellis is such a great asset to AV200. Not only does he inspire us (pushing back your surgery to be able to do the ride?!), he’s been such a great cheerleader, coach, fundraiser, and rider recruiter. Want to join his team? They are well on their way to recruiting FIFTY RIDERS… Go Team SPR!