The Best 4 Days: How 300 Miles and 120 Massages Help the AIDS Network

Four Days. 300 Miles. A long and difficult ride, but for many it has been described as the best four days of their lives. From Aug. 1-Aug. 4, several bicyclists took part in The Wisconsin ACT 11 Ride. This year, massage therapy students and faculty volunteered their time over the four days to give massages to riders and crew members. 

massage therapy program

Massage therapy student Amy Lang gives a sports massage to a rider at the Wisconsin ACT Ride.

The Wisconsin ACT Ride collects unrestricted funds for the AIDS Network.  All of the money stays local and supports the prevention, health and care services for those affected by HIV/AIDS in Wisconsin. 

When massage therapy program chair Robin Rinehart was asked if she and her students could volunteer their time for the event, she excitedly agreed knowing this would be a wonderful way for them to practice their skills and network with other massage therapists while giving back to a great cause. 

Massage therapy instructor Laura Jeske took this opportunity to have her Sports Massage class apply their skills on real athletes.

Some of the students and faculty camped with the riders and crew members, volunteering the entire four days and traveling to designated rest areas to set up and give massages daily. Full time massage crew members gave about 30 massages a day, totaling 120 massages over the four days.  Riders had tight, sore, fatigued muscles and the massages were greatly appreciated. 

Reflecting on the Event

“I learned so much about how 300 miles affect a bike rider in four days and how much that affects a therapist when it comes to your treatment plan,” said massage therapy student Amy Lang. “What you have to do, how after three days you’re not as concerned with doing certain releases, but more to opening them up so they don’t feel like they can’t walk or move.”

Massage therapy student Courtney Wheeler said, “I had an awesome time performing massage outdoors and having the opportunity to meet therapists who are currently in the field. I enjoyed the upbeat environment and the fast pace of inter-event massage sessions.”

massage therapy program

Massage therapy students and faculty pose on the last day of the Ride.

Massage therapy student Flutura Hajdini added, “Spending four days volunteering for a great cause, while also doing what I love, was the best experience. I learned a lot about myself and my skills, and about how important massage is.”

Students also learned new techniques from the other volunteer massage therapists.  Massage therapy student David Van Schyndel had an injured arm, but was able to assist the massage therapists by wiping down tables and putting on new face cradle covers.

“Even though I was not able to massage the athletes or actually feel the muscles and how they felt or reacted to the massage, I was lucky enough to still be there and watch all the different massage therapists and their styles,” David said. “I learned a few new techniques that I am excited to try when my arm heals and I get my strength back.”

Katie Childs, associate development director for the ride, said, “I often think massage is the most popular part of the RIDE for the riders, and your contributions are so very much appreciated. Not only did you keep our riders and crew stable and relaxed, but your support is validation of AIDS Network’s work in the community.”

Students and faculty in the massage therapy program look forward to volunteering next year.