SMART Ride Comes to Passionate End

Photo via Chris Caputo, Facebook.

There were equal amounts of cheers and tears as hundreds of riders, crew, volunteers, and supporters arrived in Key West on Nov. 18 for the last time. The 20th and final SMART Ride punctuate a movement that saw a community form under the organization’s umbrella and take on an organic life of its own.

“The SMART Ride riders and crew here seem to have smiles as bright as the Key West sun,” rider Chris Caputo said. “Here's to the memories we've created together, mile by mile, the legacy forged by our HIV/AIDS fundraising, and the friendships that will ride on long past this final ride.”

It was announced in September that this would be the final ride. The feelings of shock and melancholy were replaced by an increased sense of urgency. Every training ride took on new meaning. Every hug lasted just a moment longer.

The riders were never alone. Crews were at the ready to fix a tire, grind a gear or replace any thingamajig that broke loose. Volunteers set up rest stops every 10 miles along the 165-mile route with snacks, water, and other supplies to keep the riders going.

And then there was the fun-yet-very-important Emotional Support/Cheerleading squad.

“Wow. I know that word is just so easily used, and it doesn’t encompass what I feel. It’s an overwhelming wow,” first year cheerleader FayWhat?! said after the ride.

Veteran rider Katy Wendel is VP of Nursing at CAN Community Health. She admits her focus was all over the place.

“My emotions at the start of the ride were of excitement and an overwhelming sense of community. At the end of the ride, I felt exhilarated, accomplished, and a huge mix of other feelings I'm not sure if I can describe. I'm sad this is the last ride, but so proud of these amazing individuals who all put in such tremendous effort for others. From the crew, to the donors, to the motorcycle team who support the ride, to my fellow riders, we give our all to support this cause.”


The SMART Ride was the largest ride of its kind to return 100% of donations back to the community. Founder Glen Weinzimer is a 30+ year HIV survivor who was once told he had days to live. He survived, and then thrived. He saw too many fundraisers keep most of the money and return as little as 6%. His ride, the SMART Ride, would be different.

Six Florida HIV/AIDS service organizations benefit from the ride. Over the first 19 rides, they raised $15 million, with the last few averaging around $1 million.

For the last ride, they set a goal of $2 million. As of now, they’re at about $1.3 million. Though donations will be taken through the end of the year, it’s short of the goal but well ahead of the previous ride.

SMART Ride teams held fundraisers throughout the year, from drag bingo to raffles to shows. Many teams vow to carry on.

The Key West Mile Markers have long been at or near the top of the leaderboard. This year they report raising $212,000 and hope to get to $220,000.

Keith Priemer, SunServe's Coordinator for Development and Community Engagement, reflected on the last moments of the journey.

“At mile 150, I couldn't help but reflect on those times and where I was at that moment: biking 165 miles with all the amazing people gathered together, riding for the same cause. I have never felt more gratitude for being a part of something than I did this weekend.”


SMART Ride Ends; Our Continuing Coverage


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