EPIC named SMART Ride beneficiary

ABOVE: Glen Weinzimer (L) and Joy Winheim Jan. 9. Photo courtesy EPIC.

TAMPA BAY | Empath Partners in Care has been named a beneficiary of The SMART Ride, the nation’s second largest and only AIDS bicycle ride of its size to donate the entirety of funds raised to service organizations throughout Florida.

Participants have raised nearly $14 million since 2003 by completing a two-day, 165-mile trek from Miami to Key West, including $1.25 million in 2021. The totals were confirmed during the organization’s check distribution party in Wilton Manors Jan. 9.

SMART Ride Founder Glen Weinzimer also announced that EPIC will serve as a beneficiary for SMART Ride 19 in November. A member of Empath Health’s network of care, the nonprofit has supported Tampa Bay patients since 1977.

EPIC itself formed after the 2016 merger of the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas and Francis House. Executive Director Joy Winheim and others crewed SMART Ride 18 after the Tampa Bay region’s most recent beneficiary Metro Inclusive Health opted not to serve as such in 2021.

“We knew it was a bike ride but we were not sure of what all went into the event,” Winheim recalls. “Glen actually invited us to begin coming to their production meetings … we started to learn about what SMART Ride was, what went into it and why people do it. Basically we were ‘auditioning’ this year.”

Winheim says EPIC was incredibly moved by the experience. Among other duties, she served as a member of the Pitstop Closure Team, which monitors and assists riders to ensure their safety along the route. View some of her photos from the experience below:

“We are thrilled to have Joy and the EPIC team with us this year,” Weinzimer says. “Joy has done an amazing job representing and being an advocate this past year on the ride and it was a unanimous decision to ask them to be a full benefiting agency.”

To showcase their appreciation for EPIC’s support, organizers presented Winheim with a check for $60,000 during their Jan. 9 ceremony. Weinzimer noted it also served as a gesture to the Tampa Bay region, which hosts a number of active SMART Ride teams.

You can view video via SMART Ride and photos from the ceremony via EPIC below:

“I knew that we were going to be invited to the check ceremony but I didn’t know what to expect,” Winheim says. “I was shocked at the amount, I really was. I was not expecting that kind of money.
“I might have ugly cried,” she laughs. “The people that came together to put on this event and the riders and crew that went out there and tirelessly raised money, it’s all just amazing.”

Discussions are underway for how the funds will directly benefit EPIC’s clients. The organization has also formed a team for this year’s upcoming ride and is eager to work with Tampa Bay’s other cyclists to support them however possible.

“I had no idea how exciting SMART Ride would be, just being able to meet so many different people and talk to them about why they do it,” Winheim says. “I love this thing and I can’t wait until November gets here again.”

Learn more about EPIC and The SMART Ride at MyEpic.org and TheSMARTRide.org.

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