On November 15th, 500 cyclists embarked on a 165 mile journey. For the 16th year in a row, the SMART Ride kicked off in Miami. Ambitious cyclists made their way to Key West in an effort to make a difference for individuals who have been affected by AIDS and HIV. On the first day of the event, they biked for 100 miles. They completed the remaining 65 miles on the second day of the event.

After a cold and windy trek down the Keys over two days, riders arrived in Key West on Saturday, November 16, 2019 around 2 PM and received a 4-mile police-escort and parade around Key West, and down famed Duval Street to cheering crowds. The parade ended at Truman Waterfront Park where riders exchanged hugs, celebratory high fives and lifted bikes above their heads for photos.

Cole Foust, LGBT Division Manager at Metro Inclusive Heath, raises his bike above his head in triumph after completing his first Smart Ride. Cole was one of several “under 30” riders who took to the trail for the first time.

After the closing reception, participants partied all night long on Bourbon Street and Duvall Street.

Smart Ride 2019 raised $1,325,427 and 100% of money raised will be used to fund HIV/AIDS services.

Their WHY

Participants ride for many reasons. Some ride as a memorial gesture for friends and family members who have lost their lives to AIDS. Others ride to push themselves physically. And most make the journey to make a difference to eradicate AIDS/HIV.

One cyclist, Jim Nixon, told ABC Action News that he does the ride to support the loved ones that he lost to AIDS. He explained that their memory has helped him make it through the challenging ride both this year and last.

Nixon rides with a group of cyclists known as the Wheeling Warriors, who cumulitively raised nearly $50,000 for Smart Ride this year. The St Petersburg and Tampa Area cyclists come together to make the long trek.

Wheeling Warriors Team Roster: Abram Gadikian, Bob Ribits, Chrys Bundy, Chuck Hinchliffe, David Letro, James Keane, Jeffrey Navarre, Jim Marston, Jim Nixon
Joseph Harwicz, Justyn Acord, Luis Balaguer, Mark Micklow, Michael Abner, Paula Rodriguez-Delgado, and Sam Thotsawat. Team Fundraising Total: $49,196.07

Nixon’s teammate, Dan Casper, quoted LGBTQ activist Vito Russo on his Facebook page after the race, “Remember that someday the AIDS crisis will be over, and when that day has come and gone, there will be a people alive on this earth, gay people and straight people, black people and white people, men and women, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought, and in some cases died, so that others might live and be free.”

Cole Foust, LGBT Division Manager at Metro Inclusive Health in the Tampa Region put together a group of six 20-somethings as team “Hope In Motion.” When asked what motivated him to participate, he said, “We are all in our 20’s and the first team to intentionally be made up of young adults. Most of the SMART Ride participants are people that were alive to witness the AIDS crisis, so I organized a team of young adults to continue the important work of raising funds and awareness.”

Foust continued, “In 2017, youth aged 13 to 24 made up 21% (8,164) of the 38,739 new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Youth with HIV are the least likely of any age group to be linked to care in a timely manner and have a suppressed viral load. Addressing HIV in youth requires that young people have access to information and tools they need to reduce their risk and get treatment and care if they have HIV. This is why Hope In Motion—a team comprised entirely of young adults—was formed. To raise awareness and funding to reach our peers.”

Hope in Motion raised $10,205 this year.

What is SMART Ride?

The SMART Ride is the largest AIDS ride in Florida, and the second largest ride of its kind in the United States. It began in 2003 with 100 riders and 100 crew. According to the SMART Ride website, “Sixteen years later, over $10.5 million has been distributed throughout Florida, making SMART Ride the 2nd largest AIDS bicycle ride in the country and the only one of its size to give back 100%.”

SMART Ride offers a 100% Guarantee, meaning that all funds collected support HIV/AIDS organizations throughout Florida. “All benefiting agencies will earmark the money toward direct services and education.”

Although the riders get pit stops every 15 to 18 miles,  the journey is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a grueling course that tests even the most avid cyclists.

During last year’s event, the SMART Ride was able to raise over $1 million for various AIDS-related organizations in Florida. One such organization was Metro Inclusive Health in St. Petersburg. According to the organization’s Director of Development, the money fills gaps in funding and helps HIV and AIDS outreach and education to reach more people.

You can learn more about the SMART Ride here

Fundraising Recap

Top Fundraisers

1. Donald Dotzauer $35,000
2. Joseph Locke $31,375
3. Juan Benitez $16,550
4. Bobbie Cotton $13,000
5. Ed Pascoe $12,105
6. Kevin Dickinson $10,200
7. Timothy Hart $9,848
8. John Labus $8,863
9. Kevin O’Connor $8,521
10. Ryan Fuller $8,255

Top Teams

1. Key West Mile Markers $187,828
2. What What $115,402
3. Prideliners $70,086
4. Love Always Wins $59,034
5. Bikesexuals $58,860
6. Wheeling Warriors $49,196
7. Broward House Give A Shift $48,472
8. Team Miracle of Love $45,794
9. CDTC Cyclones $41,373
10. Tampa Bay Area Cyclists $41,241

Top Crews Fundraising

1. Ice (Route) $26,510
2. Recruitment and Store $23,302
3. Motorcycle $20,226
4. Medical $7,718
5. Dining $6,465
6. Cheerleading $5,927
7. Bike Parking $5,642
8. Check-In Crew $4,581
9. Traffic $4,412
10. Production Crew $4,156

Top Crew Fundraisers

1. Scott Gray $26,510
2. Andrea Weinzimer-Hernandez$20,476
3. Glen Weinzimer $13,918
4. Wayne Jarvis $5,025
5. Mark Angle $4,581
6. Roy Litzinger $3,464
7. Michael Gluckman $3,308
8. Jonathan Scott $3,190
9. Derek Maingot $3,141
10. Raymond Willey $2,924