AIDS Help, one of the seven participating Agencies of the 2016 SMART Ride, was awarded $120,140.63 (TSR) raised for its participation in the annual 165-mile trek from Miami to Key West.
At the January 14th check distribution party, 7 AIDS service organizations (ASOs) plus AIDS Help were recognized for their participation: Pridelines, Broward House, Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Metro Wellness and Community Centers, Miracle of Love, Inc. and Compass Community Center.
Registration for TSR 14 is now open. For more information, simply go to
or access The Mile Markers for SMART Ride 2017 on FACEBOOK at
and message either Co-Captain Karen Frank-Noll or Donald Gene Dotzauer from that page.
The enthusiasm and energy of riders and crew throughout Monroe County always plays a key role in the AIDS Help’s percentage of the total disbursement.
The Mile Marker Team of 17 cyclists ranked as the #3 TSR team, having raised nearly $48,000 through family, friends, sponsorships and fundraisers.
Other events, such as Saturday BINGO at Poinciana Royale, Sunday Tea Dances, Christopher Peterson’s ‘The Broads of Broadway’ and The Miss Firecracker Pageant helped complete the Agency’s participatory “buy-in” to the event.
“We work handlebar-to-handlebar with TSR management and the other ASOs to remind this state that there is still neither vaccine or cure for HIV and AIDS,” says Executive Director Scott Pridgen.
TSR’s inception dates back to 1993, when it was known as BIKE It & B.E.A.R. It. Since, over $8,300,000 has been raised and returned to Florida organizations working with HIV/AIDS clients for direct services…the only one of its size to give back 100%.
This disbursement, intended solely for the care of clients living with HIV/AIDS, represents critical stopgap money for needs not covered by in-house grants, including a neuropathy alleviation program (long term usage of HIV-medications often trigger this crippling nerve pain); pharmaceutical and specific dental needs; and emergency housing and utility assistance.
In fact, Monroe County has seen a significant rise in new reported HIV and AIDS cases this year, going from four in the first nine months of 2015 to 21 during that same period this year.
The state of Florida led the country in new reported HIV and AIDS cases last year with 7,208 new cases; statewide, there are 112,000 people with HIV or AIDS and 658 people with the disease in Monroe County.
THE DYNAMIC DUO: Karen and Jerry
Teamwork is what, ultimately, provides the energy behind the annual SMART Ride effort.
Few exemplify it better than Karen Frank-Noll, 62, and Jerry Hughes, 70, life partners and now over 10 years strong in empowering TSR from Miami to Key West.
There are no awkward pauses when you talk to Karen and Jerry. Enthusiasm precedes every anecdote, careful consideration underscores every point they want to make. They quietly defer to the other’s narrative, yet often finish one another’s sentences.
Karen first joined The SMART Ride in 2006, when she joined AIDS Help, Monroe County’s first, and still only, ASO and a beneficiary from the very first SMART Ride.
A co-worker asked if she might interested. Karen’s immediate “Of course!” was followed by a tentative “so what is it?”
“I didn’t even have a bike at that time,” she recalls, laughing. “I knew not one participant. I walked into a room of complete strangers…plus I had to raise $1,250 to participate as a rider.”
It wasn’t the 165-mile trek from Miami to Key West that was most daunting to her; it was asking for money from friends and family. Now it’s the easiest. “I never counted on that people would understand the importance and open their checkbook, but when you ask with passion, people embrace it.”
She helmeted up, “prepared harder than I probably ever have since” and, by journey’s end, “I was hooked.”
Karen’s not boastful, so it’s Jerry who speaks with pride of her subsequent participation in three rides within the same calendar year: a 350-mile ride in Wisconsin, a 7-day, 545- mile fundraiser from San Francisco to Los Angeles and TSR.
Jerry, as witness to Karen’s commitment in 2006, joined the effort in 2007 as part of a Sweep Team – vans that follow the course and provide transport in the event of injury, mechanical problem or exhaustion, to the next pit stop or to the finish line. Personal experience with HIV/AIDS also lent a personal reason: Jerry’s youngest brother died from the disease in 1992 after a 1989 diagnosis.
“This is my way, every year, of honoring Christopher and helping others living with HIV/AIDS,” Jerry states. “It’s both moving and motivating.”
A more detailed video recap of Jerry’s recollections of his brother can be seen at https://youtu.be/WofIhPJ3SoQ.
Jerry’s involvement evolved in 2016, shifting into a broader transport: Keys riders to and from home. He’s seen personal frustration and weather-related snafus…and he’s also seen perseverance.
“The goal is 100 miles that first day, and I watched a fellow with a flat tire determined to make it to Hawk’s Kay on his own,” Jerry recalls. “And he did.”
Independence has been folded into the collective over the passage of time. The formation of teams like that of the Mile Markers is encouraged by TSR. It’s an esprit de corps that spills over into fishing expeditions and Sunday practice runs to Baby’s Coffee.
For 2017, Karen serves as co-captain of the Lower Keys’ Mile Markers team with Donald Gene Dotzauer (the team’s top fundraiser for the last two years, raising $12,415 of the team’s combined $105,585).
The next Mile Markers Informational Q/A seeking new riders, crew member or other volunteers is scheduled for The Bottlecap Lounge, 1128 Simonton, Wednesday, June 28th at 6:30 p.m.
A fundraiser to facilitate the team’s participation is scheduled for Friday July 14th, from 5-8 p.m., also at The Bottlecap.
“Many first-timers come aboard as a kind of a Bucket List thing, their own physical challenge. We had a 70 year-old join last year,” Karen states. “When we’re assembled to reflect at the Edward B. Knight Pier (formerly known as White Street Pier), it’s very emotional. It’s no longer a race to them. It’s a ride for a cause.”
“And that 70 year-old woman is returning this year,” Jerry adds.
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More about The SMART Ride can be found at http://www.TheSMARTRide.org.
The Mile Markers’ Facebook page can be found at https://tinyurl.com/MileMarkersFB