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Local cyclist crossing country for a cause

Man uses pedal power to bring awareness of African AIDS plight
By: Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent
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Lee Wiegand enjoys cycling, staying and shape and loves new challenges. That’s why he’s riding across the country. On Sunday, the El Dorado Hills resident started on his journey with Ride for Hope Coast to Coast. “I’ll be joining more than a dozen bicyclists in San Francisco,” he said before embarking on his trip. “From there, we’ll begin our coast-to-coast bicycling trip — covering nearly 3,200 miles in 10 days.” The cyclists and their support team left the Bay Area Sunday, making their way to Annapolis, Maryland. The trip, Wiegand said, aims to help those in Africa stricken or affected by HIV/AIDS. “This is Tim Patton’s vision,” Wiegand said. Patton, a missionary, went to Namibia three years ago. He found the area was hit hard by HIV/AIDS. “Tim came back with stories of people dying and families devastated by the disease,” Wiegand said. Including children. Wiegand said that by 2015, some projections indicate that more than 15 million children will be orphaned by the disease. “Tim has stories of seeing large orphanages lined up, one next to the other,” Wiegand said. He said something has to be done. “(The orphanages are) filled with children whose lives have been shattered by their parents’ deaths,” he said. “Over there, thousands of people are dying each day. Someone needs to help.” Patton returned to the States, wanting to do more for those confronting the disease. “Tim wanted to tell other people what’s happening in Namibia and the rest of Africa,” Wiegand said. He wanted to get the message out and raise money as well. Like Wiegand, Patton is an avid cyclist and belongs to his church’s cycling club. “Tim came up with the idea of putting together a ride across the country, visiting different churches and telling their congregations about the situation,” he explained. Wiegand heard about the proposed ride and was intrigued by it. “For more than 25 years,” he said, “I was a runner. About 8 years ago, I made the transition to cycling, which was easy to do.” After making the change, he found himself riding in cycling events, raising money for leukemia and other worthwhile causes. “I just turned 50 and wanted to do something . . . more challenging,” Wiegand said. Being a part of the transcontinental cycling ride seemed like the thing to do and “it’s for a truly great cause.” He broached the subject with his wife, Kristen. “Her response was, ‘We’re going,’” he said. In fact, Kristen will be one of the four support drivers for the ride. “It’s going to make for a fun vacation,” Wiegand said. Wiegand has been training since January. “I’m in good shape and am ready for the challenge this presents,” he said. After all, he added, this is the challenge he’s been looking for. As he’s been readying himself for the ride, Wiegand has been updating his progress on Twitter.com. As LeetheBee2, people can follow Wiegand’s updates online that he makes along the way. The event’s Web site, christshopeusa.org, has information regarding the ride’s itinerary and how people can donate and help in other ways. “Yes, this is something challenging and fun for me,” Wiegand said. “But, what’s more important, it’s about making a difference — a positive difference — in people’s lives. I find that to be satisfying more than anything else. Working together, all of us can make a difference over there.” After riding into Annapolis on June 17, Wiegand hopes to take in the sights, enjoying the time with his wife. As for the trip back home? “We’re flying,” he said. Visit the Web site at FolsomTelegraph.com for updates on Lee Wiegand’s progress. Leave comments for Wiegand online after the story.