Personal Pursuits Lead to Community Connections
On June 3, 2012, Silvia Samuelson, age 52, will bike out of the Cow Palace in Daily City, near San Francisco, sweating the California hills and heat for 7 days, from 5 in the morning to 9 at night, eating lots of oatmeal and arriving at the VA Center, 11301 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles on June 9th for AIDS/LifeCycle. Up to four years ago, Silvia was never on a bike but, like her life story, nobody would ever know.
From all appearances, Silvia is the typical single mom. She managed the uneasy balancing act of caring for her son, going to school and holding down a job. No one would ever know that Silvia came from Germany as a young military bride not knowing a word of English. A short time after her arrival, a divorce and disappointments, Silvia was thrust into fending for her son and herself-no financial support ever came. If she didn’t have it before, Silvia learned extreme personal perseverance and the value of community.
Silvia is convinced that many opportunities in life came just by establishing and fostering relationships. She remarks that she has been encouraged to do better, to improve, to reach her potential because of her relationships with teachers, bosses, coworkers, and business colleagues. In fact, a friend encouraged Silvia, at age 50, to train for and enter the AIDS/LifeCycle event that opened up her world.
Initially, Silvia just wanted to challenge herself, physically. Until then, Silvia didn’t fully appreciate how pervasive HIV/AIDS was and she was shocked that people with HIV/AIDS continued to experience scathing stigma and isolation. What started as something personal became more meaningful as she expanded her sphere of awareness and brought more and more people into her expanded circle. The first year, Silvia doubted her ability to raise the money needed to enter the race. But, as she puts it, “I set my intentions and money came in from ways and avenues I never thought possible.” She raised $5,000 the first year. Also, Silvia took on the grueling 541.4 mile trek, putting her heart and soul into it by riding in honor of a young man with AIDS. Her selfless act gave him renewed courage and confidence especially because he couldn’t believe that a complete stranger would do something so kind and generous.
Silvia had no time to train this year but she did raise $3,000. After fracturing her arm in January and dealing with family issues, Silvia just wants to complete each mile of the route. She will use the time to replenish herself while doing something good for others.
She will join 2,200 bikers and 540 volunteers to bring awareness about AIDS/HIV and, when Silvia and the other bikers arrive in the town of Bradley, California, she will participate in the festivities as the town leverages this event to help raise needed funds for their schools.
Silvia Samuelson is the Director of Resident Services at Villa Gardens Retirement Community and tells everyone, even the residents, “Building relationships is what life is all about…success comes from this!” Silvia is happily re-married.