When it comes to Glen Weinzimer, it seems like everything that wasn’t supposed to last long finds a way to keep going.
Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS over 20 years ago, Weinzimer said he isn’t supposed to be alive. “I was one of those people who wasn’t supposed to live 10 days.” But more than 20 years later, he’s still going and in the midst of the 13th year of The SMART Ride, the two-day, 165-mile bike ride and HIV/AIDS fundraiser he founded.
This year’s SMART Ride, Nov. 18 and 19, will start from Miami and end in Key West. The first day is 100 miles and the second is 65 miles. And like Weinzimer himself, The SMART Ride wasn’t supposed to last long – just once.
But, even with the progress made, HIV/AIDS is still going. And so, Weinzimer keeps The SMART Ride going. He’s worried that many people have become too comfortable, too complacent with the disease, and that lack of awareness and appreciation for the consequences will lead to sustained or increased infection rates.
“I didn’t think AIDS was still a thing anymore” is an attitude Weinzimer is fighting just as much as the disease. “I don’t want just your money. I want you to have a conversation with your kids tonight. Even if they don’t act on it, there’s a conversation. If you say the word AIDS, it exists.”
It’s a conversation that happens before and during the ride. “Every one of those towns [we ride through] sees us.” And by moving the start of this year’s ride to the University of Miami, Weinzimer wants to use the week leading up to the ride as another opportunity to engage students and faculty with speakers, various groups and a display of the AIDS Quilt. “Moving it to UM allows us to raise the dialogue.”
So far, $7.3 million has been raised for SMART Ride since it began over a decade ago. All of it benefiting HIV/AIDS-related charities, including Broward House, Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Centers, Metro Wellness & Community Centers, Pridelines, AIDS Help, Compass Community Center, and Miracle of Love.
And all of it because of Weinzimer, the riders and the support staff who assist the riders during the event by providing food, water, medical care (if necessary) and shelter. SFGN spoke to the five individuals, listed by Weinzimer, who have raised the most money over the last five years.
Read their stories below. Visit TheSmartRide.org for more information.
Jody Locke’s decision to join The SMART Ride came at 3:30 a.m. It was after a friend, who was biking the fundraiser, asked Locke to drive him back from Key West. Locke, who was diagnosed HIV positive 27 years ago, said he was so amazed by The Smart Ride he composed his donation request letter right in his hotel room at that early hour.
“This has been such a powerful event. I saw riders lift their bikes over their head. I said, I’m never going to be standing on the outside again. To me, that was the most amazing experience.”
And so Team YOLO [You Only Live Once] was born. By March of that year, he had raised about $40,000.
“If they see how passionate and committed you are and see how much it means to you, it means a lot to them. I am consumed by that passion.” That passion is on full display through the AIDS flag Locke takes with him on the ride.
He estimates he’s raised about $140,000 over the past five years, thanks, in part, to matching grants from his employer.
To Locke, the ride is three things: “Coming to terms [with HIV/AIDS] to make a difference.
The challenge to be physically up to the ride. And you really have to learn how to work as a team.”
Jody Locke is Rider #1.
Many midlife crises are answered with the purchase of a fast car. Tim Haymon’s answered his with a bike. Ten years ago Haymon, who “was kind of out of shape,” saw an advertisement for The Smart Ride and decided it was time for a healthier lifestyle.
“I had just turned 40. I guess this is my midlife crisis,” joked Haymon, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.
“I said, that was such a huge goal I could never actually achieve. 165 miles is so huge, but let me try. So here I am, riding 10 years later.”
And he’s done it in multiple conditions and on multiple teams, including the cold that came when the ride was pushed back to January one year. “I’ve ridden when it was blowing rain and 30 degrees and high 90s in the 70s. Every year it’s a different challenge.” This year, he’s on the team representing the Worthington Guest House.
And every year, he looks forward to his favorite leg of the ride. “My favorite part is always the Seven Mile Bridge. “I feel a connection to the Keys. Riding through the Keys on a bike is very empowering.”
Over the last five years, he estimates he’s raised $65,000 to $70,000 with the help of matching funds from his employer. “And we raised another $10,000 for California AIDS ride. It was a combined effort. It wasn’t just me.”
Tim Haymon is Rider #389.
Asked who raises more for The Smart Ride, him or his wife, Andrea Weinzimer, Gabe Hernandez smartly declines to answer the question.
“I’m not going to answer that,” he said with a chuckle. “Let’s just say I have a pretty big network.” Each year, the couple fundraise for The Smart Ride, founded by Glen Weinzimer, Andrea’s brother. “We compete with each other on the funding,” he said.
Hernandez, who has raised about $69,000 over the past five years, participates for two reasons. “It’s a cause near and dear to me because it’s my wife’s brother . . . and I believe in supporting the community. It’s worth supporting.”
Like his wife, Hernandez also helps out with supporting the event as a crew member – setting up rest stops and supplies for the bikers and other logistical support. But he prefers being one of the bikers.
Hernandez, who lives in New York, also rides frequently up there. Between the oak trees and views of the Hudson River and palm trees with views of the Atlantic Ocean, Hernandez said both views offer something beautiful.
But this November, the ride to Key West will offer a little more than just views.
“We want to see this epidemic go away and people live their lives as respectful citizens, as loving citizens. We will continue to support it.”
Gabe Hernandez is crew for this year’s SMART Ride.
Andrea Weinzimer, Glen’s sister, isn’t a rider but she does fundraise and helps provide logistical to support riders during the event by preparing meals, setting up tents and more. “You name it, we did it. We just do what we need to do.”
She estimates she’s raised about $64,000 in the last five years. A resident of New York, she comes down every year to assist her brother and sometimes her husband, who is often one of the riders.
“It’s like a dog. You’re hanging your head out the window seeing if riders are okay,” she joked. She much prefers a car ride to 165 miles of roadway biking next to dangerous traffic. “[My husband’s] done both. I’m terrified.”
Although she’s never done the ride, her brother is the connection she talks about to raise money.
“I just basically say why I’m a part of this. I mention my brother and how he started this. I think it’s amazing we’ve been doing it for all these years. You connect with them. It’s kind of an amazing that every penny is going to be raised is going to these organizations. [HIV/AIDS] needs to stop.”
Andrea Weinzimer is crew for this year’s SMART Ride.
Ed Pascoe completes each SMART Ride one pedal at a time.
“You keep pushing and pushing and say ‘I’ve just got three more miles and I can have a nice cold drink and rest in the shade.’” This year’s SMART Ride will be his fifth. It’s a stretch of time and effort that has seen him raise over $40,000 for SMART Ride.
“It’s very life reaffirming that I am doing this at 63 years old. It’s a testament to my good health, my stamina and my ability to put mind over matter. A lot of people can do that physically, but your mind stops you. There’s definitely a psychological component to it,” Pasco said. “I started cycling in my 60s and I really enjoyed it and wanted to do something a little more challenging that involves giving back to my community. I just found it gave me a lot of purpose.”
That doesn’t make the long bike ride from Miami to Key West any easier though.
“The way I approach it is it’s incremental. It’s hard but it’s something, when you see another rider, it moves you forward. Or there’s cheerleaders on the side of the road or you think of the people who are going to benefit.”
A Miami Beach resident, Pascoe’s team is named after Miami – the Magic City Riders. He’s lived here since 1987 after moving there from Philadelphia.
Ed Pascoe is Rider #3.
1. Joseph Locke $20,365
2. Eric Krause $13,076
3. Craig Heckenstaller $10,035
4. James Durhan $6,000
5. Donald Dotzauer $5,600
1. Mile Markers $40,598
2. CDTC Cyclones $36,655
3. Palm Beach Bike Jockeys $29,144
4. Miracle of Love $28,860
5. Tampa Bay Area Cyclists $26,827