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Local

Batavia resident geared to help

Batavia resident Kirsten Pufahl, who graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, will embark on a cross-country bike ride June 24 to raise money to fight AIDS in Africa. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@kcchronicle.com)
Batavia resident Kirsten Pufahl, who graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, will embark on a cross-country bike ride June 24 to raise money to fight AIDS in Africa. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@kcchronicle.com)

BATAVIA – The longest that Batavia resident Kirsten Pufahl has ever biked is 40 miles.

So the recent Illinois Wesleyan University graduate knows she will be pushing herself next month when she hops on her Trek Pilot bicycle for a 4,474-mile trip across the country to raise funds to fight AIDS in Africa.

“I’m a distance runner, so I’m used to endurance,” Pufahl said. “But switching to the bike will be a bit of a change for me.”

The 21-year-old along with seven other bicyclists from Stanford University and the University of Wyoming will participate in the Ride Against AIDS. The ride will begin in Palo Alto, Calif. on June 14, and is set to end Aug. 19 in Boston, Mass.

The ride is partnered with FACE AIDS, a student group Pufahl was involved with at Illinois Wesleyan University. All the funds raised go to Partners In Health and FACE AIDS’ operations in Rwanda to provide health care and socio-economic support to HIV-affected individuals.

The mission is one that is close to her heart. Pufahl traveled to Ghana, Africa, in 2008, as part of an art and cultural program.

What was amazing to her was how happy the people she met seemed to be, despite their economic condition.

“They literally have the bare essentials and they are happy,” Pufahl said.

Her mother, Marilyn Pufahl, is not surprised that she is going on the bike trip.

“She always thinks out of the box,” she said. “She’s always done things out of the ordinary. She doesn’t have to do what her peers do.”

As a mother though, she also is worried about her daughter’s safety on the trip.

“You worry about your children,” Marilyn Pufahl said. “It shows a lot of determination on her part. She’s always found ways to do the things she’s always wanted to do. She’s definitely an adventurous person.”

During stops on the ride, Pufahl and the other participants will give presentations to groups and community organizations in order to raise funds and awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

They are required to raise at least $5,000 each. But Pufahl is shooting to raise $8,948, or double the mileage of the trip.

“I think it is better to shoot higher,” Pufahl said. “If you fall short, you will be better off than the minimum.”

She has raised $2,100 so far.

The trip also is a way for Pufahl to take in the country. Although she has visited several countries, she hasn’t seen much of America.

“I’ve been to Florida, and that’s pretty much it,” Pufahl said. “I’m really excited to see the country. I’m excited to see a lot of the coast.”

Those who want to follow her adventures can go to her Internet blog, www.kirstenher
mine.blogspot.com.

Pufahl knows the biking will be hard. The group plans to bike 60 to 100 miles a day.

“We will have one rest day for every five days of biking,” she said. “It will be rough going through the mountains.”

She is approaching the ride like a race. Pufahl placed fifth in her age group in the Chicago Spring Half Marathon on May 16.

“I think I have the mental capacity to push myself,” she said.

Want to give?

Go to www.faceaids.org/raa. Select Kirsten Pufahl's name when choosing a rider to donate to.

Follow Kirsten Pufahl's bicycle journey at www.kirstenhermine.blogspot.com

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