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Cyclists pedal to Key West to Raise Money to fight HIV/AIDS

smart-ride-key-west

Cyclists pedal to Key West to Raise Money to fight HIV/AIDS

The SMART Ride is a community based event that is in its 9th year helping raise not just awareness about HIV/AIDS; but over $3.3Million dollars since its inception in 2003. What makes SMART Ride truly unique, and some would say “pretty SMART”; is that it gives back 100% of the funds the participants raise to 7 AIDS Service Organizations in Florida. Not an easy task to accomplish when you consider the logistics of moving about 700 people 165 miles in two days. Organizers say almost 260 people volunteer to help on the event; and they do everything from driving trucks to carrying gear, fixing those occasional flat tires, and feeding everyone; not just three hardy meals, but snacks along the route as well. Then, there’s the housing at Hawks Cay which is also something very unique to this type of event that traditionally has participants camp in tents, use Port O Potties, and temporary showers. The SMART Ride rents out 175 villas that can sleep up to 6 people, but all these things cost money and since100% of the proceeds are given away, we wanted to know how this is accomplished.

The first thing the organizers of The SMART Ride said was “we couldn’t do it without the communities we live in. They continued: “It takes all of us to make a difference, and in this case help save lives and prevent further new infections and incidences of HIV/AIDS. The SMART Ride has been able to keep to its 100% commitment because of businesses like Rosie’s Bar and Grill which provides the dinner and lunch in the middle keys (last year they actually served short ribs that melted in your mouth and omelets, made to order, for breakfast, for almost 700 people), then there are the smaller businesses that purchase ad’s in the souvenir program book, donate portions of daily sales to the event and offer in-kind services like advertising (Hot Spots) and lending of vehicles from Maroone Ford and the list goes on and on. In addition to the local sponsorship companies like Macy’s, FedEx, American Medical Response, Darden Family of Restaurants, Merck and Abbott pharmaceuticals also provide both financial and in-kind support.”

smart-ride-1We asked how SMART Ride is able to raise so much money year after year. The answer we got started with a quote from famed anthropologist Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”. It’s the community again that makes the ride successful, it’s the individuals riding for those who succumbed to the pandemic, it’s those riding for friends and family who cannot ride for themselves, its people riding because they are HIV positive and want to prove that the disease cannot beat them. In the past few years the biggest growth has come from Teams that have formed, groups of riders like Team Let’s Roll Bitches, which in two years raised over $100,000, or Friends of Rosie’s, whose team also raised more than $100,000 in two years. The teams are doing all kinds of creative things to raise funds from doing “Russian Style Dinner Parties”, producing a calendar (Team Let’s Roll Bitches), throwing a T-dance at the Royal Palms (Team Live Free Be Strong), there are jello shots, dance parties, beg letters and 50/50 raffles going on all over the state, and the collective energy keeps moving the event forward. In Wilton Manors alone, there are at least 10 teams registered from Chic Optique to Eyes on Sunrise, from New Moon to Wells Fargo and team Namaste.

It seems that, indeed, the world will be changed, in no small way, thanks to all those individuals who care to make a difference and who make our community proud. The SMART Ride is sold out for this year’s event on November 16th and 17th, but the organizers have a new event planned for January 19th Bike It For Life-Fort Lauderdale, a one day progressive ride that will leave Fort Lauderdale Beach and head north towards the Palm Beach County line. In March a third event will be added called Bike It For Life-Orlando, both events will help more agencies receive more money to help more people receive necessary services. 

“Although the money raised since 2003 is impressive (and organizers believe another $800,000 will be added to this total this year), the community that rallies around the event is even more impressive” says founder Glen Weinzimer, we couldn’t do it without the incredible support we get from everyone. To learn more about The SMART Ride or Bike It For Life, visit the following websites TheSMARTRide.org and BikeItForLife.org

 

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