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The Riders

Lisa Bennett

Lisa Bennett, Rider #6066

"When I'm lifting weights with my trainer at the gym, and she leans down and whispers, 'see that thin girl over there? She can't do half of what you can,' I realize all over again that what society says about large women simply isn't true. You CAN be large and physically fit at the same time." - Lisa Bennett

(5'7", 220 pounds), was born in London, England, and now lives in Los Angeles. Heavy since childhood, Lisa says that by age 10, her mother was taking her to Weight Watchers. "It was a humiliating experience, and I was very clear that though I hadn't done anything wrong, I was wrong nonetheless." She married "the first man who asked me because… I thought I was so unappealing that no man would ever want me, so I'd better snap up the one who did." The marriage ended 13 years ago. Now Lisa is physically active and works out regularly. Lisa finished the AIDS Ride every day with the top 30% of riders

Donna Woll #4305

"Riding the California AIDS Ride was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and one of the most rewarding. I have always liked sports and I have always liked finding a challenge and testing my will!" - Donna Woll

Donna has a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology, and works as a therapist at a probation school for girls. She also teaches college psychology classes at San Quentin State Prison. She enjoys playing golf, rugby and racquetball.

Dona is 36 years old.

Donna Woll

Lisa Gaeta

Lisa Gaeta, Rider #6351

“I put on my biking clothes and look in a mirror, and... I think I look good. And my husband thinks I look good. And if you don’t like the way I look—don’t look at me. It’s so not my responsibility to satisfy some externally set idea of beauty.”

Lisa Gaeta grew up in a large Italian family where self-image didn’t revolve solely around weight, but around character and personal strength.  Self-respect was big in her family, and continues to influence her choices in her 10-year marriage and in her business. Lisa owns and operates IMPACT! Women’s Self Defense in Los Angeles, a program that teaches women their right, and their ability, to protect themselves from violence.

Kate Merriman, Rider #3456

"I have learned to treat myself with care and respect-the whole point of this ride for me is to give thanks for my health today." - Kate Merriman

(5'10", 210 pounds) was an athletic kid, enjoying soccer, roller skating and alpine skiing. But the pressure to become ultra-thin in her teens led her to unhealthy behavior with diet pills and starvation. Kate became clean and sober at age 25 and has, for the last 12 years, been learning how to reclaim that healthy, happy, sporty kid. This was Kate's first AIDS Ride. She's riding again in next year’s Ride, and has talked 12 of her coworkers into riding next year.

Kate Merriman

Becki Friend

Becki Friend

"I lost my brother to AIDS. Every year someone in my family has ridden in the ride to his memory. This year it's my turn."

Becki grew up in a large and loving family, where size issues weren't issues. She grew up with confidence in herself and a strong faith in God. Today she volunteers in her Catholic Church's outreach programs, and she is humbled and pleased to remember her brother by participating in this year's ride. Becki lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children.

Kim Schneider, Rider #1075

"I would rather be thin, but I have accepted who I am and what I look like. I am a wonderful, fun and loving person which other people are able to see when they look past the fat." - Kim Scneider

(5'6" 235 pounds, size 20) was born in Pasadena, California. By the 6th grade, she was 5'5" and 120 pounds. Everyone made fun of her for being the tallest and biggest. She has felt fat all her life, but recently has come to terms with being overweight. Kim is a recovering alcoholic / drug addict (8 years in January '01) and although that was a huge obstacle to overcome, the AIDS ride was her biggest personal challenge and biggest accomplishment.

Kim Schneider

Christine Casey

Christine Casey, Rider #5979

“When I told my mother I was training to do this incredible, 575-mile fundraising bike ride, her first question was, 'have you lost weight?'”

(5‚7", 210 pounds) was born in Michigan and raised in Alabama in a small, rural town. Raised like many southern  women, she learned to avoid the sun and the outdoors. At the same time, being fat was definitely not okay. She was 12 years old on her first Weight Watchers visit, and she remembers attending with a plus size neighbor. "W'd weigh in, then go to the supermarket for ice cream." So her experience with food and weight was dysfunctional from a very early age. Today she enjoys walking and cycling with her husband, and occasionally sneaks into an aerobics class. She and her husband own a thirteen year old business in Santa Barbara.

Jennifer Holland, Rider #5971

"When I weighted 125 pounds in high school at 5'7" tall my dad was still paying me $5 a pound to lose weight".

(5'7", 260 pounds), has an athletic history (tennis, softball, soccer, and triathalons), but has led a sedentary life for the last 10 years. Weight has been an issue in her life and her family since she was in junior high school. Jennifer led an exercise and discussion group for large women called "Sisters of Plenty," with the sole purpose of enjoying movement, regardless of how they looked in spandex.

Working as an event planner and computer consultant, Jennifer has been self-employed in Santa Barbara for more than 10 years. She's assisting Christine in leading training rides for Team Santa Barbara, training for the next California AIDS Ride!

Jennifer Holland

Akilah Monifa

Akilah Monifa, Rider #2257

"When I think about issues of beauty in this society, being heavy isn't considered ideal. Neither is being this tall. Neither is being African-American, or wearing dreadlocks. So among all these various issues, weight is simply one more." - Akilah Monifa

(5'11", 325 pounds), was born in Manhattan, KS and raised in Huntsville, AL. After practicing law for several years, she moved to her favored career and is now a writer. California AIDS Ride 7 was Akilah's second AIDS Ride. She lives in San Francisco with her partner of five years.

Porter Merriman, Rider # 3451

"I remember looking around when I was 16, and feeling despair that I'd never have a date, because at six feet tall and 200 pounds, I was already bigger than just about everyone." - Porter Merriman

(6'2", 228 pounds) heard lots of messages growing up that a woman should never outweigh her date. She was always active, especially in college where she joined the rowing team. An attorney in Silicon Valley, Porter has returned to rowing after a long break, but stays mostly focused on going to the gym and riding her bike for exercise. Her boyfriend of two years is another rower, Duncan, is a handsome, 6'4" tall man who much prefers what he calls "big girls" to skinny ones. "It's been a really powerful experience for me to be with Duncan," she says. "He loves me because of who I am rather than in spite of who I am." This was Porter's first AIDS Ride, and she's signed up again for CAR8-rider #2234

Porter Merriman

Beatrice Murch

Beatrice Murch, Rider #3688

If someone doesn't like me or doesn't want to know me because of my weight, then that's their loss. That's their problem." - Beatrice Murch

(5'10", size 18) lives in San Francisco. Nicknamed "Paisleychick" by her family, she is a self-proclaimed hippie. Born and bred in the small northern California town of Bolinas, she was destined to liberal thinking. She earned a BA in Art History, French Literature with a minor in Mathematics from Willamette University in 1998. Beatrice works at Project Fit America, a charity dedicated to getting children physically fit. Her job keeps her very busy and satisfied.

This California Aids Ride is Beatrice's second, she did CAR5 as well as CAR7. Alternating years seems to be the way to go for her. She's very thankful for all the support she received from friends and family for these two rides. She was given a total of $13,090 for those two rides. Peace. Ride on.....

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