The world’s largest single event HIV/AIDS fundraiser won’t physically be taking place this year, but riders and volunteer “roadies” are going virtual to keep raising money for AIDS/LifeCycle 2020.
The seven-day 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, benefiting both the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, was cancelled last week due to health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
In order to maintain the current level of HIV/AIDS services, both organizations have set a joint fundraising goal of $13 million—of which $6 million has already been raised by the ride’s participants.
“We are relying on the AIDS/LifeCycle community to raise an additional $7 million before June so that the Foundation and the Center are not forced to cut HIV prevention and care programs that our community is depending upon,” Foundation CEO Joe Hollendoner said during a virtual town hall meeting with participants on March 23.
Center CEO Lorri L. Jean made the stakes clear: “If we were to stop (fundraising) at where we are now, it would be catastrophic.”
Members of the AIDS/LifeCycle community—and anyone else in the world, for that matter—who didn’t register for the 2020 ride can help to achieve the $13 million goal by registering as a “virtual cyclist” at aidslifecycle.org.
“We know, in this time, it’s very easy to feel helpless,” Hollendoner said. “But we hope that, by focusing on your fundraising, you can be doing something actionable and make sure that the Center and the Foundation have the resources that we need to respond to the current crisis.”
“We know we’re asking a lot of you,” Jean acknowledged. “What we are asking of you is to simply keep doing what you were planning to do all along, raise the money you were planning to raise, and reach those targets. Otherwise, we’re going to have to stop caring for people who are counting on us.”
Although the ride was not taking place for another couple of months, the decision to cancel had to be made before April 1 in order to obtain refunds from vendors and to give participants a better chance of receiving refunds for their cancelled travel arrangements. It was also critical to let the communities along the route know what was happening in terms of campgrounds and water stops.
Postponing the ride to later in the summer wasn’t an option either. According to Hollendoner, road permits can take up to a full year to obtain so changing the dates in a matter of weeks wasn’t a practical solution.
Jean said it is time for everyone, including herself, to move past the disappointment and focus on the road ahead.
“We’ve been relying on our riders and our roadies since we first rode in 1994 and, in the process, you have saved countless lives,” she told the virtual town hall group. “In this new, unprecedented crisis, we need you more than ever. It wasn’t so long ago that we were dealing with the worst years of the AIDS epidemic. But we persevered, we were creative, we worked hard to survive and actually changed the world. We need to keep that critical work going.”
All of this year’s riders and roadies have been registered automatically for the 2021 ride with registration fees waived.
Jean and Hollendoner also pointed out that since the coronavirus pandemic began, the two organizations remain in operation to help community members in need.