The annual Harbor to the Bay (H2B) bike ride is a celebration of community strength, solidarity, and resiliency in the face of an ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS. Riders who make the trek from Boston to Provincetown do so alongside colleagues, family, and friends. Thomas Schwarz, who will be riding on September 23 for the AIDS Action Committee, first got involved with a little help from a friend and former coworker.
“Kaan gets all the credit for getting me to do this ride,” Thomas explained, referring to Kaan Apaydin, a former Boston Children’s Hospital employee and Research Assistant at Fenway Health. Thomas and Kaan worked together in the lab of Boston Children’s Hospital. Thomas introduced Kaan to the joys of cycling, and soon after, Kaan introduced Thomas to today’s AIDS advocacy work.
“I had friends, college classmates, who died during the AIDS epidemic of the 80s; like many people my age, I saw it at its worse. But in recent years, [AIDS] had fallen off my radar,” Thomas said. “I had been lulled into this false sense that it was over now.”
After speaking with Kaan about his advocacy work, it became clear to Thomas that there remains an incredible amount of work left to do for AIDS prevention, treatment, and education, especially for marginalized communities.
“It seemed tragic to me that there were still new cases arising when we knew so much more about HIV now than we did back in the bad old days,” Thomas said.
When fundraising for his first H2B, Thomas was able to educate not just his friends network, but also his synagogue community, about the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic today and in return received generous support towards his goal.
Thomas is looking forward to his second ride in a row and looks back fondly on his first. “It was a fun ride, and really well supported,” he said. “The crew members and sponsors are lovely and appreciative. Riding with people who are so motivated for a cause makes it such a special experience.”
Thomas offers this bit of advice to first time H2B riders: It’s all about pacing. “There’s an art to figuring out what your comfortable pace is, and once you do that, you could keep riding forever,” he said. “You’ll get to PTown and have a blast.”