Riding and Raising Funds to Rid the World of AIDS

Cassandra Greenawalt, UCR alumna and EH&S analyst, participating in 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle Ride from SF to LA

Cassie Greenawalt

UCR alumna and current EH&S Employee Cassandra Greenawalt (’08) is raising funds to participate in the 2012 AIDS/LifeCycle Ride, a 545-mile bike ride between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — To say that Cassandra Greenawalt has a competitive streak would be a vast understatement.

“I have been told that I am over-competitive,” she said. “But the one thing that I learned as a student-athlete is that you don’t know your limits until you are tested, until you push them.”

Greenawalt, who works as an analyst at Environmental Health and Safety at UCR, will definitely be pushing those limits this June as she participates in the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride to End AIDS, a 545-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ride is made up of 2,350 riders, who each raise a minimum of $3,000 in donations to participate, and is fully supported by 600 volunteers who do everything from setting up overnight camp grounds and rest stops to repairing participants’ bicycles.

The AIDS/LifeCycle Ride began in 2002 and has raised more than $70 million to support the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Greenawalt graduated with honors from UC Riverside in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a minor in sociology. She also played catcher for the UCR Highlander softball team, earning second-team All-Big West honors in 2006, and was viewed as a leader of the team. After graduating, she worked as a volunteer assistant coach as well as a part-time position with EH&S.

“I was so blessed to have Cassie on my team, and then on my coaching staff,” UCR Head Softball Coach Connie Miner said. “She is one of the most caring, loving, thoughtful, giving, dedicated and competitive individuals I have ever known.”

Greenawalt said she began running as a way to let out those competitive energies when her playing career came to an end.

“Running was cheap and easy to do. You just need shoes and you go out and you run,” she said.

But it wasn’t long before Greenawalt was pushing herself as a runner, competing in half-marathons and finally a full marathon. In the marathon, she and a friend raised over $1,000 for the Karno Kids Foundation, which fights against childhood obesity.

Cassandra Greenawalt

“After the marathon, I was looking for the next big thing, the next adventure,” Greenawalt said. “A few years ago my friend, Rebecca Bautista, had mentioned the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. One day last fall I said to her ‘we should do that.’ She said OK and we signed up.”

Of course, one does not just sign up for the ride, show up in San Francisco and go. To participate, each rider must raise a minimum of $3,000. Furthering the challenge for Greenawalt is the fact that she has never ridden that distance before. In fact, when she signed up, she didn’t even have a road bike suitable for making the trip.

“We were so naïve,” she said, laughing. “Cycling is something I had never done before, but I said I was going to do it. So I bought the bike, the shoes, the gear, the helmet. I have started working out with the Riverside Cycling Club and have been learning the rules, the etiquette of road biking. They have been really helpful.”

In addition to her training, she has been working on raising money. Again, her experience as a student-athlete came into play.

“I didn’t realize how many friends and connections I have made through athletics,” she said. “For example, I contacted former athletics director Stan Morrison – he has the biggest heart in the world and loves to see student-athletes succeed – and he made a donation. Others that I knew from my days in the UCR Athletics Department donated right away.”

Morrison said that the decision to support Greenawalt in the ride was an easy one.

“Apart from the fact that I am an ‘easy touch’ for UCR student-athletes, I am impressed by her walk the walk approach here,” he said. “It is a labor of love for Cassie. How can I not respect and support her for such an effort?”

She has also reached out to her friends and teammates from her junior college and high school days, in some cases using the communications skills she learned during her career with the softball team.

Cassie Greenawalt during her playing days with the Highlander softball team.

“As a student-athlete, you meet so many people and get to do so many different things,” she said. “You learn to communicate well with people, and I think that is something that works in my favor now. I associate with people well and I understand where they are coming from.”

Miner said she wasn’t surprised to hear that Greenawalt was participating in the ride.

“That is who Cassie is.  Always helping others,” she said. “She’s a special young woman, and we are fortunate to have her on campus.”

One of the reasons that Greenawalt is making the ride is in honor of her aunt, Kerrie Fischenich, who contracted AIDS in the mid-1990s and passed away from complications of the disease in 2006.

“I was very young when my family found out, and they protected me from it. They didn’t really explain,” she said. “But as I got older, I began to understand that AIDS/HIV had personally touched me. I just didn’t know it at the time.”

Greenawalt said she hopes to do the ride again, perhaps even as soon as next year, and has even made some plans for increasing her fundraising numbers. But between her full-time job at UCR, a part-time weekend job as a diet clerk at Montclair Hospital, and taking prerequisite classes in preparation for a master’s degree in nutrition or clinical psychology as she works towards her career goal of becoming a registered dietitian, extra time is tough to come by.

“I have a lot of big ideas, but just not the time to put them into action,” she said. “I won’t know if I’ll be able to raise $3,000 or $10,000 or $25,000 if I don’t try, if I don’t push myself to that.”

To donate to Greenawalt’s team, please visit http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/cassieg.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756
E-mail: john.warren@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Cassandra Greenawalt
Tel: (951) 827-5747
E-mail: cassandra.greenawalt@ucr.edu

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