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Cycling the Keys for a cause

Dominique LaPointe is training for the ride of her life.

On Nov. 7, LaPointe will tackle a 165-mile ride from Miami to Key West during the Bike It and B.E.A.R. It Ride for AIDS.

To prepare, the Brandon cosmetology and barber instructor rides 17-miles a day, five days a week. She says she's "riding for a cause."

A fellow hair stylist and one of LaPointe's closest friends died of AIDS several years ago. LaPointe felt she needed to educate people about the disease, and help those living with the disease.

A recreational biker, she decided to put her hobby to use when she discovered Bike It and B.E.A.R. It, a new non-profit whose goal is to raise money for people with AIDS. B.E.A.R., which stands for Because Education Achieves Results, is part of the Florida AIDS Action Organization.

Ride Director Glen Weinzimer of Ft. Lauderdale said the fundraiser will serve a dual purpose.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," he said. "It will help out a lot of people."

The 165 registered riders will meet in Miami Thursday for a dedication ceremony, candlelight vigil and celebration to kick-start the event.

Riders will hit the road at 6:30 a.m. Nov. 7. The goal: cycle 104 miles to Marathon by sunset. The next morning, riders will cycle the remaining 61 miles to Key West, where they will celebrate with lunch and a parade.

Sponsors, including Bally's Total Fitness, Starbucks, JetBlue and United Airlines, are footing the bill for celebration parties, food and donations.

LaPointe, an instructor at Artistic Nails and Beauty Academy, has the distinction of being the only rider from Brandon.

Each rider must collect a minimum of $1,200. Her students drop their tips into a specially made container whenever they can. Also, LaPointe's clients fill out pledge forms on a regular basis.

All the money will go to charities that provide pharmaceutical assistance, dental care, doctors visits, lab work and residential assistance for people with AIDS, Weinzimer said.

For LaPointe, it's about making a difference.

"It's all about awareness and representing a group of people that will always need our help," she said. "Some of these people have friends or relatives who are living with this disease and it can get frustrating when money is low."

To help

To pledge a donation to Bike It and B.E.A.R. It, visit www.bikeitandbearit.com.

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