By Denny Patterson
On November 20-22, 2020, almost 700 people participated in the 17th annual SMART Ride charity event, the nation’s second largest AIDS bike ride.
Founded in 2003, The SMART Ride is a two-day, 165-mile biking journey from Miami to Key West. 100% of the money raised is guaranteed to be given back to the beneficiary organizations so they may provide services at no cost to individuals in need. Over $12.4 million has been raised since The SMART Ride’s inception.
This year was R3 Accounting’s CEO Timothy Hart’s sixth time participating. “First, I love participating because I have a passion for HIV/AIDS causes, and The SMART Ride identifies with that,” he said. “Second, I love the fact that they give back 100% of everything that is raised and every single one of the benefiting agencies do great work. They deserve our effort.”
The beneficiaries this year include Broward House, Metro Inclusive Health, Pridelines, AIDS Help (AH), Miracle of Love Inc., and Compass Community Center.
However, due to COVID-19, The 2020 SMART Ride was Re-Imagined. Instead of biking, participants could ride, swim, run, jog, walk, kayak – choosing their own 165-mile journey. The tagline for this year was, “How do you 165?”
“The ride was totally re-imagined and done virtually, so you did not necessarily need to ride a bike,” Hart said. “I personally rode north on A1A with a small group. 60 miles on day one, 60 miles on day two, and 45 miles on day three. Our team was R3 Accounting. We were a small team and raised close to $12,000. We are super safe when we ride and train together.”
Currently, $635,000 has been accounted for, but more is expected to come in. The goal is to reach $700,000.
The SMART Ride participants come from across the state of Florida, including Key West, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Palm Beach. Some have come from far as Hawaii to as close as Georgia. This event attracts between 400-500 participants and ranges in age from 18-73.
Hart says there is no experience like participating in The SMART Ride.
Primary reasons why one participates in The SMART Ride is because they are HIV+, they know someone who is living with HIV/AIDS, have lost someone to HIV/AIDS, or they believe this event is beneficial. Hart believes The SMART Ride is a beneficial charity event. “I think the money these agencies get from The SMART Ride is meaningful money. It makes a difference to those particular agencies. This is an incredible event that does a world of good.”
Although The SMART Ride 2020 looked differently, Hart still feels a sense of accomplishment. He is already registered for The SMART Ride 2021, which will take place November 19-20, 2021.