Man overwhelmed by response to YouTube plea for AIDS LifeCycle donations

CBS San Francisco
CBC San Francisco

June marks the 10th year for the AIDS LifeCycle, a grueling 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness to help fight HIV and AIDS. One man had a unique idea to raise money and experienced an outpouring of support he'd never thought he'd see. Ann Notarangelo reports.

Watch the video report.

For the third time since his brother died of AIDS in 1995, Dan Jones will ride in the AIDS LifeCycle. He'll be honoring his brother Mike and fighting the disease that claimed his life.

"If my brother died of AIDS, why not make something good out of something bad," says Jones.

In addition to raising awareness, he had to raise $3,000 to make the trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles, so he posted a video on YouTube with a unique request:

"I'm asking 3,000 people to send me just $1. Together we can fight this."

Within minutes the money started coming in. Then the letters started pouring in — thousands of them from as far away as France. Most came  from people he never met.

He reads one letter: "I am 14 and I care about ending AIDS, your story touched my heart."

In another package, the sender had folded 10 one dollar bills into little hearts.

The note read: "Dan, one from me, one from my husband, one from my best friend in high school dead of AIDS at the age of 35, one for his family, one for his friends."

"I never planned on opening the mail everyday and seeing what I am seeing," says Dan. "It's hard to open the mail everyday."

Dan's goal was to raise awareness for other people, yet the tables have been turned on him.

"I had no idea this would happen."

Dan's original goal was to reach 3,000 people and raise $3,000 but he's already raised nearly $14,000.

But he needs donations from 299 more people in order to make his awareness goal.

Dan knows the 545-mile ride will once again challenge his physical stamina, what he never imagined was this experience would also test his emotional endurance.

"There is a lot riding on my shoulders, I'm not riding for just me, I'm riding for a lot of people," he says.