A gut punch. That’s what it felt like for thousands of riders, crew, volunteers, and more when they learned that the SMART Ride is ending after this year’s ride. OutSFL broke the news Saturday on social media.
Over the course of 20 rides, the organization, founded by Glen Weinzimer, has become its own community. The annual 165-mile bike trip from Miami to Key West may officially only take place over two days, but it’s a year-round effort on the part of riders, crew, volunteers, and organizers. Though you may only see teams training on weekend morning rides through neighborhoods, their support system is working just as hard on what is a logistical puzzle that must be solved anew each year.
Eight people have been with SMART Ride for all 20 rides. For many, the abrupt news that the ride would end was like hearing about a death in the family.
Avid cyclist and Wilton Manors City Commissioner Chris Caputo posted an emotional video on social media, pledging to make the most of this last ride. Later, he told OutSFL about how the ride, and the community, means so much to him.
“As someone who discovered I was HIV-positive after completing my first SMART Ride, this event isn’t just a fundraiser or a 165-mile bike ride to me – it's a cornerstone of my personal journey and healing,” Caputo said. “In a time of darkness in my life, the consistency of the SMART Ride, and its nearly year-long training, brought comfort and consistency to my life.”
One of the most prolific SMART Ride teams is the Key West Mile Markers. They have already raised nearly $80,000 for this year’s ride, and on social media they declared they are going strong into November.
Team member Donald Gene Dotzauer said the mission carries on.
“This will be my ninth ride. I am $2,000 away from crossing the $300,000 lifetime individual fundraising total. I hope to raise 50 grand again this year.”
The magnitude of the HIV/AIDS crisis hit home during his formative years.
“I was a young gay man at the height of the AIDS epidemic. In 1995, it hit home. I lost my best friend, who died stripped of his dignity. I lived for 20 years never processing my grief in a healthy fashion. That changed in 2015 when I found The SMART Ride. It has changed my life in immeasurable ways. It’s among the best things that have ever happened to me.”
Through the first 19 rides, they’ve raised $15,000,000, and hope to finish above $17 million this year. SMART Ride is the only one of its kind that gives 100% of donations back to the community.