SMART Ride 20’s beneficiary representatives Nov. 18. (Photo via EPIC/Facebook.)
The 20th and final SMART Ride raised a record $1,280,381 for AIDS service organizations in Florida this year, but fundraising continues through Dec. 31.
Cyclists completed their annual 165-mile journey from Miami to Key West Nov. 17-18. Since the inaugural ride in 2003, participants have pedaled 1,320,000 miles and raised over $16 million to help those affected by or at risk for HIV and AIDS across the state.
The 2023 ride will once again give the entirety of funds raised to Florida nonprofits. The final beneficiaries will be Empath Partners in Care in Tampa Bay, Miracle of Love in Central Florida, Broward House in Wilton Manors, Pridelines in Miami-Dade County, Compass Community Center in Palm Beach County and A.H. of Monroe in Monroe County.
The agencies are “led with remarkable people who in time will find new opportunities for you all to come together,” SMART Ride Founder Glen Weinzimer told riders Nov. 18 in Key West. “So I ask for your patience.
“With their support, you have successfully raised millions of dollars and supported people affected by HIV and AIDS,” he continued. “We have had an incredible opportunity to write an important chapter of the AIDS story. … Initially, the need was to provide a dignified way to die with AIDS — and thankfully, we’re at a point where we provide a dignified way to live with HIV.”
CAN Community Health, which once again sponsored this year’s ride, subsequently reflected on its legacy. “This may be our last ride, but it’s not the end of our fight,” they shared Nov. 19 via social media.
“CAN Community Health is excited for the future as we remain focused and dedicated to the day when HIV is no longer a public health threat,” the organization wrote. “The 20 year history of the SMART Ride is a testament to the humanity and compassion our community has for those impacted by HIV. As we close the chapter on this historic ride, we’re forever grateful to be a part of this amazing cause.”
Beneficiaries also addressed SMART Ride supporters via social media.
“Congratulations Team EPIC and all of the SMART Ride finishers! We are thankful to SMART Ride for welcoming us into their family, even though our time together was short,” EPIC shared Nov. 22.
“As of the end of the ride, SMART Ride has raised over $1 million for HIV services in Florida this year,” the organization continued. “There is still time to be a part of the legacy of this 20th and final ride — donate now through December 31 at TheSMARTRide.org.”
“What an incredible feat! This ride has been more than a physical journey; it’s a testament to the power of community, determination, and compassion,” Miracle of Love wrote Nov. 23. “Every donation raised makes a profound impact. It helps the clients of the 6 benefiting agencies support individuals whose lives have been affected by HIV. Your generosity bridges the gaps that grants can’t cover, providing essential assistance where it’s needed most.
“Remember you can still be a part of this incredible journey by making a donation until December 31st,” they added. “Let’s continue making a difference together!”
SMART Ride also solicited support through the year’s end. The organization hopes to raise at least $1.5 million before coming to an official close.
“What an amazing journey we embarked on,” Weinzimer shared with supporters Nov. 25. “We can’t thank you sufficiently for your selfless acts of kindness. You showed up, you make a difference. It isn’t over till December 31st and I know we can do this, raise $1.5 million if not more.
“The lives you touch will be enormous, the thank you’s you will never hear, but know they are real and spoke and those who benefit for your hard generosity,” he continued. “For me, I’m filled with nothing but love … you have changed my life and I Hope it is an example of what you each can do.”
Half of this year’s funds will be evenly divided between this year’s benefiting agencies, with 10% designated for a lifeline fund. Riders have until Dec. 15 to designate how they want their half of funds raised to be designated. Supporters Scott Gray and Clincierge will match up to $500 per participant for a $25,000 match this year.
“We can do this,” Weinzimer noted. “$1.5 million is within reach.” A check distribution party is currently scheduled for Jan. 14, 2024 in Wilton Manors.
SMART Ride also shared Nov. 25 that benefiting agencies “are committed to figuring out what the next ‘thing’ is and have a planning meeting in February to look at what is possible.” Anyone with ideas can email IdeasForTheFuture@TheSMARTRide.org.
For more information about The SMART Ride and to make a donation to their final fundraiser, visit TheSMARTRide.org.