ROCHEPORT — Red was the dominant color Sunday as dozens of people gathered at the Katy Trail entrance to participate in Trail to a Cure to benefit AIDS research.
The bike/walk/run event, which was part of Columbia’s Bike, Walk and Wheel Week, offered routes from 10 kilometers to 32 miles. Participants gathered donations before setting out on the trail, and more than 60 people registered online to take part in the event, said Michael Patterson, a board member for Trail to a Cure.
Jeff and Angie Ligon, along with their son and his friend, participated in the 32-mile ride and raised $150 for the cause. Angie Ligon said her sister, “the ultimate soccer mom”, died of AIDS in 2000.
“I want people to know that it affects everyone,” she said.
Patterson said about 250 people in the Columbia region have HIV/AIDS, with around 20 new infections per year.
Part of the proceeds will go to the American Foundation for AIDS Research and RAIN of Central Missouri, an organization that helps people with various health problems, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Rain provides HIV testing, as well as health care services for those with HIV.
Misti Pennington, a RAIN caseworker, saw the event as an opportunity to raise awareness.
“It’s OK to hug someone with HIV,” she said. “If we could stop the prejudices, that would be a goal.”
Ivan Ivy, who manned the hospitality booth at the event, knows the prejudices firsthand.
A Columbia resident, Ivy said he tested positive for HIV in 1985, after probably contracting the virus around 1981.
“It was like being Typhoid Mary,” Ivy said of the reaction he received after his diagnosis. “I was told I had two years to live.”
Along with Ivy, students from MU, Stephens College and Columbia College and other community members volunteered to help set up, register participants, move coolers of sports drinks and perform other tasks for the event, said Scott Miniea, vice chairman and board secretary for Trail to a Cure.
Event chairwoman Liz Rettke, who has four children, remains optimistic that a cure for AIDS is possible.
“I hope to see a cure before they are adults,” she said.