Cycle for the Cause Raises $470K for Center HIV Programs
As the 150 riders and crew of the 18th annual Cycle for the Cause pulled in to the finish line at the New York Gay and Lesbian Community Center on September 23, they may have been exhausted from their 275-mile, three-day trek from Boston, but you would not have known it from their smiling faces. As the crowds cheered, the cyclists rejoiced in completing a life-changing experience that raised $470,853 for Center HIV programs and services. Several noted that this was the most well organized ride in years, due to the Center’s new partnership with LeadDog Marketing Group.
"This year exceeded my expectations. We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it was a great experience, and everyone stepped up and did a great job," said Center Executive Director Glennda Testone. This was the third consecutive year she participated, and she raised $5,600, much of it from old high school friends donating via her Facebook page, which she said, "makes me feel like I’m raising their awareness."
The final tally was just shy of the fundraising goal of $500,000 that Testone told EDGE they were striving for in an interview earlier this year, although she said, "we are still raising money, with new donations every day." In addition, Testone said 75 riders had already signed up for next year’s event.
"Our goal all along has been to grow this ride, so we always want more riders," said Testone, who said Cycle for the Cause had about 80 riders, and 70 people on the support crew. "We didn’t exactly meet our goal in the area of riders, but everyone had such a great experience, we are positioned to get even more next year."
In the face of competing rides like July’s AIDS Ride 2012 from Boston to the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., or the 10-year-old Harbor to the Bay Ride from Boston to Provincetown on September 15, the newly-dubbed Cycle for the Cause managed to hold its own nicely.
Riders, primarily from New York, gathered in Boston on Sept. 21 to begin the 275-mile ride over hills and down valleys from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, through Connecticut and back to New York. At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, they rode into a welcoming contingent of community members gathered at the Center on W. 13th Street in Manhattan.
In a previous EDGE story, many of the riders shared their motivation for riding, which ranged from wanting to memorialize a partner or family member lost to AIDS to being a person living with HIV themselves, who had survived the worst and was now healthy enough to complete the race themselves.
Riders were required to meet a minimum fundraising goal of $3,000 to participate, but many exceeded that goal by merging into teams. The two top contenders this year were Team Eagle, and Team Outspoken from Sirius XM Radio Out Q108.
"We ended up having 11 members on our team, including a lot of my family members, my wife Iris, and two listeners; one who rode with us, and another who worked the crew," said Romaine Patterson, host of the Derek and Romaine Show on Sirius XM. Patterson’s brother Michael died of AIDS in 1997.
Her team raised $106,471, exceeding their original goal (and blowing their 2011 net of $40,000 out of the water) and Patterson won the individual fundraising prize by personally raising more than $50,000 in donations via the generosity of loyal listeners.
"Romaine raised the most money individually, but that’s easy to do when you have a national radio show. We’re just a simple bar team and we out-raised her team hands down," said Team Eagle Co-Captain Rick Weber.
He and his partner, Peter Schwartz, brought together 12 riders and four crewmembers -- their smallest team ever -- and raised more than $113,000. Although they are still nursing their sore muscles, they plan to have a celebration at the Eagle in the next few weeks, with Weber noting, "The owners of The Eagle were incredibly supportive."
Testone said that for her, seeing Weber and Schwartz ride every year was what kept her going, noting, "I always think of them as two of the strongest people I know. Peter was struggling at one point in the ride, and Rick came up to comfort him. I had to stop and tell them, ’You are the ride for me. To see such great people and to be able to honor you, your family and your relationship is why I ride.’"
Weber and Schwartz told EDGE that they were motivated to join the ride because it was an amazing team-building experience that raised both funds and awareness around HIV.
On the second day of the ride, participants usually wear red dresses or outrageous costumes. This year, they found themselves at a rest stop in front of a bank, where Weber said individuals asked about the ride.
"People wanted to see what was going on, and when we told them, they went over to the ATM and withdrew some money, and handed it to us as a donation," said Weber. "It was really kind of cool, and great to see this kind of support, especially outside of Manhattan."
The proceeds of the race go toward the Center’s HIV programs and services, primarily HIV prevention. With New York City remaining the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., the Center hopes that targeted focusing of at-risk youth will help bring down the numbers of New Yorkers (currently 107,000) living with HIV/AIDS.
"We use the funds specifically around prevention for LGBT young people," Testone told EDGE in a June interview. "We do a lot of outreach, education, prevention and peer education among young people, transgenders and people of color. We also have cultural programs that support and fuel this program, like the March event devoted to Keith Haring’s life and artwork."
Patterson said these high rates of infection made her team’s participation more important now than ever.
"While the high rate of HIV infections remains the same, the grants and government funding for HIV awareness and services has dramatically decreased," said Patterson. "When I asked Glennda how much funding was cut just this year for AIDS services, she said roughly $100,000. That why it’s so important for us to come together and push for HIV awareness."