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    Why I Ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle

    By Pam Schmitz–

    Like many people who participate in the AIDS/LifeCycle, I lost someone whom I cared about during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. I was just out of college and working on the Options Floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco. I struck up an unlikely friendship with a man named Joe Sanchez. Here I was, a relatively sheltered sorority girl from UC Berkeley, standing next to a very flamboyant gay man from the Castro. Joe was open about his lifestyle and all of the shenanigans he was up to … especially during Fleet Week when all of the sailors were in town. We became good friends, often getting together outside of work to hang out. He was also very matter of fact that he would die young of HIV/AIDS. I didn’t believe him and didn’t know enough about how truly horrific those times were back then, but he did die at age 33.

    Fast forward a couple of years and one of my best friends from college came out to me. It didn’t matter to me at all what her orientation was, and I was dismayed to find out that some of her other friends couldn’t handle the truth. For me, this was a big turning point in my awareness of the LGBTQ community. I couldn’t understand why anyone would treat others differently based on their sexual orientation. I became more and more aware that the world at large treated this group of people poorly. 

    As the years passed, I got married and had children. My friend couldn’t legally get married, but did have children who were similar in age to mine.  She also was very involved in writing the legislation for Proposition 8 for marriage equality. She called me and asked to put signs in my yard as well as to bring my family into San Francisco to march with her family. She said it was important that I show her kids that this wasn’t just a gay issue, but something that we should all care about. And so, I did.

    In 2015 I accepted a job with Brio Financial Group in San Francisco. Our mission is to provide brilliant financial solutions that help our clients achieve long and short-term goals. We specialize in the complex needs of nontraditional families, such as the LGBTQ community here in San Francisco. Our approach is professional, yet fun-loving, and it always places our clients’ needs and wishes at the core of everything we do.

    I recently attended the Our Family Coalition Gala and had the honor of hearing Allision Collins, San Francisco School Board Member and Community Organizer, accept an award for her advocacy for the LGBTQ community. She is a hetero woman, like me, and said this: “To be an ally for this community is not a noun; it is a verb. We have a call to action to stand up and protect this community that we care about.”

    I ride not only to raise money to find a cure for HIV/AIDS and to offer support for those living with the disease, but also because I love the LGBTQ community and am proud to stand with them.

    If you would like to support me on my ride, I am rider #3547. You can find my page at