82-Year-Old Grandmother Rides to Raise Money for AIDS

After doing AIDS walks in a wheelchair, Jinny Morelock is honoring her son by riding over 500 miles to raise money.

BY David Duran

June 06 2013 4:00 AM ET

What an 82-year-old activist looks like: Jinny Morelock by day, and Grandma Jinny just as she reached the halfway point from San Francisco to Los Angeles and was cheered on by the masses of cyclists. After coming down from the boulder, she said, “ I know Michael is looking down on us right now and saying, ‘That’s’ my momma.’”

In the spring of 1988, a son asked his sisters and mother to join him in the living room to talk. It was at that moment that Jinny Morelock’s son told his family that he was HIV-positive. He also took advantage of the moment to ask if they would participate in a walk that AIDS Project LA was having to benefit AIDS research. Jinny and her oldest daughter Tracy quickly agreed, jumped on the support train, and walked that first walk with Michael.

The following year, Jinny, Tracy, and Michael went at it again. Jinny who was frail at the time, walked the walk with her cane in hand, but was determined to finish for her son. In 1990, Michael was too sick to take on the challenge of the walk, and Jinny was recovering from an injury and was using crutches, so she too had to bypass the walk. In 1991 and ‘92, Jinny did the walk in a wheelchair and in the Spring of 1992, after the walk, Michael passed away. The mother and daughter team continued to walk and even after Tracy had her son, they walked.

“There was one year where Tracy was pushing me in a wheelchair, and I was pushing her son [Cory] in a stroller. It was a sight to be seen, but we did it for Michael,” said Morelock, who is now an impressive 82 years old.

After recovering from knee surgery, Morelock thought it would be fun to do a marathon. At first, daughter Tracy didn’t believe her mom was serious, but after realizing her mother’s full commitment to the race, she quickly signed on.

“Just so you know, it’s possible to walk a full marathon in 8 hours, 25 minutes and 54 seconds,” she said. Tracy ran the marathon that year, but turned around after crossing the finish line to come back and finish the race with her mom.  The following year, the duo did a marathon in Honolulu but Tracy was injured and was told she couldn’t run any longer. Throughout the years, the two continued to do the AIDS walks.

It was eight years ago that her daughter let her know about the AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), the annual 545-mile bike ride that raises tens of millions to combat HIV/AIDS, and soon they were participaiting in the fundraiser together. The first year Tracy cycled, while Morelock volunteered as a roadie. She continued as a roadie for seven continuous years. Until the 2013 ride.

“All the time I was a roadie, the bikers would come in and say to me, ‘We’ve got the easy job, and you’ve got the hard job,’ so it was time for me to find out if they were lying or not,” said Morelock. And though she had not been on a bike for over 65 years, the great grandmother began to train for her first ALC as a cyclist.  This past January she joined up with Team Long Beach to train for the journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles that was ahead of her.

Daughter Tracy was again suspicious of her mother's ability to make the journey on a bicycle, but once saw that Morelock was training vigorously day in and day out, she took her own bike — the one she had ridden in the AIDS/LifeCycle before, to her mom to use on her ride.

“I know you have done this before, so you have to show me the ropes,” Morelock says she told the bike each time she got on to ride.

Morelock says this is her final ALC. While she has been supported by her husband and family over the years she feels it’s finally time to honor their request that she stop participating for her own health and safety.

“Since 1988, I have been raising money for AIDS and I think it’s now time to turn it over to the younger generation as they seem to be doing a great job already,” she said. “This is my grand finale, so I thought I would go out with a bang!”

Even when her feet weren’t pedaling for the cause on this current trek, Morelock's dedicated hands and heart were focused on others. Even during this interview, Morelock, the quintessential grandmother, was knitting away. She explained that she was making a blanket for an organization called Linus, who give blankets to kids who have lost a parent in one of the armed forces.

Tags: Women

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