Fullerton College business and marketing Professor Gary Graves has recently gained some recognition for his new children’s book that draws attention to AIDS and HIV awareness, LGBTQ+ themes and general community involvement for the betterment of all people.
“Chippy the Cheetah Rides 545 Miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles” tells the story of a young anthropomorphic cheetah who, while learning how to care for his community, participates in a cycling ride to raise money that will go towards AIDS prevention, education and support. The same one that Graves has participated in for the last 10 years.
The book stresses the importance of teamwork, determination and charity in order to bring together diverse and peaceful communities. In this case, it aims to help end the stigma of having HIV and AIDS: a problem that has been affecting LGBTQ+ communities for years.
Chippy has two dads, a reference to Graves and his husband.
“Chippy the Cheetah is treated a little bit like my son. He gets a bicycle, we raise money and we go on the AIDS/LifeCycle. And so there’s not too many details, but, you know, it’s a 40 page book, and we encounter a few obstacles. It ends up being just a nice heartfelt story that I think my nieces and nephews and other kids would love to read,” Graves said.
AIDS/LifeCyle has been a huge part of Graves’ life. The ride has required cyclists to raise at least $3,000 to participate, and Gary has consistently raised an average of $10,000 a year.
The COVID-19 pandemic was the final push for Graves to finally publish his first children’s book. An idea that has been in the works for 10 years, all while participating in the AIDS/LifeCycle. The editing process alone took him eight years. He even describes his initial notes for the story as being taken on a voice recorder while being pulled over at rest stops.
“When you’re on a seven-day ride, where you ride about 90 miles on average, every day, you have a lot of time to think, because you’re not allowed to listen to music, you’re not allowed to ride side by side with people,” Graves stated. “You’re not by yourself, but you are doing your own thing.”
Writing a children’s book was Graves’ solution to raising money for charity with his current professional life in mind. He mentioned having trouble finding connections as an educator.
“But as you teach, and as you step away from a professional life into an academic life, you start to lose your contacts. I don’t have clients like I had before. And so, you have to do creative things to raise money,” Graves said. “And, you know, like any nonprofit, money’s really what it was about. They’re there to help people, but it takes money to do that. And so, this just becomes a fun way to accomplish my goals too.”
Besides to young children, Graves pushes his message of charity and community building to the classroom.
“I’m part of the AIDS/LifeCycle community, I’m part of the Fullerton community, the business community, the college community. I interact with my students. You want to stay engaged, you want to be involved and you want to keep in contact to make sure that when you recognize that people need some help, what can you do? And usually, it’s just a conversation, you know. Usually, it’s just talking to somebody to talk them through whatever issue they’re having,” he said.
A portion of every purchase of “Chippy the Cheetah Rides 545 Miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles” will be donated to the LGBT Center in Los Angeles and the Sans Francisco AIDS Foundation to fund AIDS research, education and treatment.
The business professor is looking for donations to fund his next AIDS/LifeCycle in 2022 through TogetheRide, as COVID-19 has completely halted 2020 and 2021 rides.
Graves is looking forward to more adventures with Chippy the Cheetah and will continue on his message of community support.