One Last Ride, A Lifetime of Reasons | LETTER

Photo via Chris Caputo, Facebook.

As the sun sets on the illustrious two-decade legacy of the SMART Ride this year, I find myself immersed in memories and reflections, compelled to share a chapter of my life that’s interwoven with this cause — and encourage you to be a part of it.

The SMART Ride wasn't just an annual event for me; it was a beacon. After completing my first SMART Ride, I received a diagnosis that shook my world — I tested positive. Amidst the tumultuous waves of emotions, the SMART Ride emerged as my anchor, providing a reason to keep on living during one of the most challenging times of my life.

The two-day ride, while brief, is often accompanied by rigorous, nearly year-round training. For me, that regimen became more than just physical preparation — it transformed into my lifeline. I forged bonds that go beyond cycling. We pedaled together, we laughed, we shared our stories, and we became an unbreakable family on wheels. It helped me plant deep roots within the community that were well worth the many grueling miles invested!

Knowing this is the final year of the SMART Ride brings a bittersweet pang. While I'll miss the camaraderie, determination, and unmistakable energy of the event, I remain eternally grateful for the platform it's provided. We've not just ridden bikes; we've ridden against stigma, against despair, and towards a brighter, healthier future — and we’re going to do that on an even bigger scale this year.

This year feels electric. I've noticed an influx of new riders, more than I can recall in recent memory. New teams have emerged, and past teams have reunited filled with both veterans and first timers. Among these fresh faces is my partner, Roger Posey. Roger once vowed the SMART Ride wasn’t for him. But, realizing this 20th year would be its grand curtain call, he couldn't resist. He knew he'd forever regret missing the chance to be part of the SMART Ride legacy.

Every rotation of the pedal, every mile covered, stands as a testament to hope, resilience, and a commitment to a future where HIV/AIDS is relegated to the pages of history. Each SMART Ride carries not just personal stories like mine but the tales of countless warriors who have faced and continue to face this condition with unwavering courage.

As we gear up for this last ride, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to the organizers, supporters, riders, and crews who've made this journey possible. For all those taking part in this 20th anniversary ride, whether it's your first or your twentieth time, let's make it count. Let's ride with love, hope, and all the determination we can muster. Although this may be the final SMART Ride, our collective drive to combat HIV/AIDS remains unyielding.

Thank you for allowing me the space to share my story, and here's to one unforgettable last ride.

- Chris Caputo, Wilton Manors Commissioner

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