By Deb Silverthorn
Jordan Traxler is spinning his wheels, and every push is one toward finding a cure for AIDS. From Sept. 21 to 23 Traxler will hit the road for the 24th Northeast AIDS Ride Cycle for the Cause, with a personal goal to raise $10,000.
“AIDS isn’t the death sentence it once was, but there’s no reason for HIV to still be around; it’s not easy. Helping, raising money, raising awareness — that is easy,” said Traxler, now training with his team, Team YL (Young Leaders), beginning with early morning rides. The group is preparing for the September event by participating in smaller charity rides, including New York’s June 10 Pride Ride.
“We’ll ride 275 miles from Boston to New York, passing through more than 50 cities, and during every mile I know I’ll be thinking about the people we are helping,” Traxler said about the Northeast ride. “To know that my hometown is behind me again, helping me push through, is absolutely appreciated.”
Cycle for the Cause is a program of the New York City-based The Center: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, for which Traxler serves on the Young Leadership Council. Funds raised provide HIV testing, programming, care and support to those who are HIV positive. With more than 1.2 million Americans living with HIV and an estimated 50,000 more to be diagnosed this year alone, it is hoped the 2018 ride will raise enough money to prevent more than 78,000 HIV transmissions.
Traxler, who joined the ride three years ago as a crew member, took away “best dressed” honors and raised almost $8,000 last year, his first on the road. “I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 10 years old, but I trained for weeks, for hours at a time,” he said. “The experience is physically challenging but emotionally unbelievable.”
At the finish line, with arms wide open, was his mother, Steffani Bailin.
“Seeing Jordan come in from the ride, especially the 100-plus miles of the second day, was incredibly emotional. You could feel his passion and care and want to help all along, and it was so much more than an activity. His heart is in this fight to end AIDS, and I couldn’t be more proud by his side,” said Bailin, who will return to cheer on her son in September. “This kid, my kid, has cared about people all his life and always wanted to do good, something we started together when he was very young. Now he’s a man, a professional, and it’s awesome to watch the mature Jordan still finding ‘doing good’ a priority. L’dor V’dor.”
That generation-to-generation resolution is important to the younger Traxler, “Guncle Jordan,” as he sets the example now for his niece and nephew, Lily Mae and Oliver Lee, children of his sister and best friend, Meghan.
Memories flood as both Traxler and his mother recall bringing food to Jewish Family Service’s Food Pantry and serving sandwiches or handing out coats to homeless people in downtown Dallas. On those occasions, the son would remind his mother to “look everyone in the eye, see the people we’re helping,” she said.
Traxler credits Congregation Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg with a lesson that still rings in his heart and mind. “He taught us that everyone is one decision away from being homeless, and the scary part is the decision might not be our own. I’ve never forgotten those words.”
Celebrated as the first bar mitzvah at Anshai Torah’s Parker Road location, where as an Eagle Scout he made it his project to build a retaining wall, resurface a playground and construct park benches, Traxler now makes New York City’s Central Synagogue his place of worship.
Traxler is an alumnus of Plano West Senior High School and a former member and president of BBYO’s Eamonn Lacey chapter. He graduated in three years from SMU’s Cox School of Business and made New York home — the “perfect place for me. The city is alive 24-7 and you can taste the energy,” said Traxler, who works in a senior marketing position for the Safilo Group.
“Jordan has always been driven to seek out projects and activities that would challenge his leadership skills as well as provide his peers an experience that would prove impactful,” said Traxler’s father, Ron. “I believe in my heart the influences by Jordan’s mom and family unit assisted in making him a fine citizen and a true friend to community. He is a loving, caring, compassionate family man who understands the value of giving of himself to society.”
“I’ve met so many people and everyone has a story — a mother, brother, sister, or cousin who has died. Every dollar helps. Bunches of $5, $10, or $50 donations help,” said Traxler. “I want to make a change, and there’s no such thing as a small change in this fight. Every bit makes a big difference.”
To support Traxler in his mission, visit support.cycleforthecause.org/jtraxy.