Fourteen years, 9.3 Million dollars and it’s all given away, that’s how Glen Weinzimer, founder of The SMART Ride started the conversation. Now in its 15th year, the SMART Ride has worked with organization around Florida to help in the battle against HIV and AIDS.
As they celebrate their 15th anniversary this November 16th & 17th, they reflect back on how far they have come as a state, and as a community in the fight against HIV. In 2003, the first year of SMART Ride (Southern Most AIDS/HIV Ride) there was no PREP, caution was your best defense and a condom. Today we have very mixed messages and an upswing in new infections throughout Florida and especially in Dade and Broward County where we lead the nation in new cases, says Weinzimer. It can be very frustrating to put all this energy into fighting a disease which is preventable, working with our 6 benefiting agencies and knowing we are making a difference but yet at times we feel overwhelmed with the statistics coming out. How do we reach millennials? How do we get people to understand their lives are at stake? How do we teach people and make them really pay attention? These are just some of Weinzimer’s thoughts today.
This year, the 15th for SMART Ride, the event will take place from the University of Miami and travel south to Key West over two days. Along the way, there will be rest stops that supply everything from water to Gatorade, bananas to bagels, all in an effort to keep the riders fueled and safe along their journey. SMART Ride has over 250 volunteers that do everything from drive trucks to deliver water, they travel with a medical team as well as massage therapists, a caterer, a ceremonies team, route markers, sweepers, sag and rider transport vehicles and so much more to anticipate everyone’s needs. The ride doesn’t just raise about a million dollars a year, it also raises awareness by their presence on the road. Last year over 10,000 people made donations to the participants. That means 10,000 people were called to action, and said the word AIDS. Too often people think AIDS is a thing of the past, when in fact it is a story that has yet had an ending to it, says Weinzimer.
Join the SMART Ride this November 16th & 17th, the cost to register as a rider or crew is $135 and includes your overnight housing in the middle keys (Hawks Cay Resort), your food and so much more. Each rider commits to raise at least $1250 and on average they raise over $2,000. The goal for this year is $1.5Million, the most ever raised on this event. For more information, or to register as an individual or group go to thesmartride.org.
Principle agencies benefiting from this year’s event are AH of Monroe County, Pridelines in Dade County, Broward House in Broward County, Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Broward County, Compass in Palm Beach, Miracle of Love in Orlando and Metro Wellness & Community Centers in Tampa/St Pete.