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Staff Members Ride to Benefit Charity

by Will Gillespie

050505ride12_dl.jpgBOONE – Appalachian State University employees Greg Williams and Alice Neff have turned their passion for riding motorcycles into charity.

“Chrome” Williams and “Lady” Neff are part of the Long Reach Long Riders, a two-wheeling group of theatre artisans, technical artists, backstage crew members, theatre managers, roadies and designers. The Long Riders collect donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. BC/EFA is a charity that uses the entertainment industry’s fund raising ability to help victims of HIV/AIDS. The money that BC/EFA receives goes to people who cannot afford the medical costs of living with AIDS and helps fund education about the disease.

050505ride1_dl.jpg“Celebrities and people in the spotlight are always called upon for BC/EFA benefit performances, and we (the Long Riders) felt like it was time for the backstage workers to get involved with a charity,” said Williams, who is the production manager/technical director in the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Beginning June 26, Williams and Neff will travel alongside other Long Riders as they cover approximately 4,000 miles in seven days. Williams and other East Coast riders will start in Washington, D.C. Riders from the West Coast will begin in San Diego. When the two groups meet in Hays, Kan., the combined Long Riders will continue north to Rapid City, S.D., where they will explore the scenic Badlands for a few days before riding back home.

Neff, who is the Department of Theatre and Dance’s costume studio supervisor, joined Williams when he and nationally-renowned rigger Bill Sapsis founded the Long Riders last year. Sapsis, who works in Philadelphia, is famous for his work at Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and hanging the Christmas wreaths on the White House.

“The chance to do something useful on a big scale was exciting to us,” Neff said. “And BC/EFA appealed to us because we knew so many people who suffered from AIDS.”

Williams said that the Long Riders receive national attention through ads in industry magazines read by studio workers. His next goal is to generate more hometown support.

” We look forward to working with campus and community officials to raise local awareness of our cause,” Williams said. “Being involved with BC/EFA really brings a lot of recognition and praise to Appalachian and its Department of Theatre and Dance.”

The 2005 trip will be the Long Riders’ second trip together. Their previous ride, which raised $13,000, was meant to be a one-time fund raiser. Its success convinced the Long Riders to continue the event and double their fund raising goal. All of the money raised goes straight to BC/EFA.

Williams said that the trip’s opportunity is what convinced the Long Riders to get back on their bikes for charity.

“It’s a win-win situation for us, as we already enjoy motorcycle travels around the U.S. This way, we get to see beautiful scenery and raise money for a worthwhile cause at the same time,” Williams said.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that doctors diagnosed 43,171 new cases of AIDS in 2003. The CDC also reports that 850,000 – 950,000 people in the United States live with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, including 180,000 – 280,000 people who do not know they are infected.

For more information about the Long Riders and BC/EFA, visit the groups’ Web sites at www.sapsis-rigging.com/LRLR.html and www.broadwaycares.org. Donation forms are available through the Web sites. All donations to BC/EFA are tax deductible.

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First Picture Caption: Alice Neff and Greg Williams prepare for the cross-country motorcycle ride to benefit people living with AIDS.

Second Picture Caption: Greg Williams polishes his Harley Davidson motorcycle. (Appalachian photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger)