By Greg Hernandez
The first-ever AIDS/[email protected] came to a close on June 6 with a total of $8.1 million raised for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
When the actual seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles was canceled in March due to health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, participants had already raised more than $6 million. They collected an additional $2 million after the physical ride transformed into a virtual fundraising event.
“We know this has been very different than what we normally experience this time of year, and we really appreciate that you stuck with us,” Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said during Closing Ceremony streamed online.
Jean and Foundation CEO Joe Hollendoner (pictured, left) announced the event’s top five individual fund raisers: 1. Lon Wahlstrom ($65,713); 2. Frankie Grande ($61,181); 3. Christopher McMillan ($58,532); 4. Otis Morgan ($35,752); 5. Philip Hodges ($35,484).
Ride Director Tracy Evans acknowledged that, while everyone would have preferred to share hugs in person and to ride along the Pacific Ocean, she was grateful to the community for pulling together virtually with such enthusiasm.
“Thank you for continuing to fundraise, for continuing to talk about our mission to end AIDS, for making AIDS/[email protected] a wonderful extension of our AIDS/LifeCycle family,” she said.
In addition to Closing Ceremony, AIDS/[email protected] was a reimagined version of some of the ride’s favorite events: Opening Ceremony; candlelight vigil; at-home workouts each morning; virtual hangouts and coffee talks; virtual dance parties; a talent show, and more. The busy week of virtual events kicked off on May 31 as nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death were taking place each day.
“It is pretty phenomenal what you all have accomplished,” Jean said. “We are returning to an uncertain world, and nobody knows exactly what the future will hold. But we are all very much looking forward to being together in person on AIDS/LifeCycle 2021.”
AIDS/[email protected] participants were able to interact among livestream platforms, such as Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook, and through online comments throughout the week.
“It was wonderful being with you all virtually this week,” Allen Leibovitch wrote on Facebook. “Really miss seeing you and fixing your bikes in person. There will be many hugs in 2021. I love you all!”
Wrote participant Jennifer LaFors: “Really missing what would have been this week. But grateful for all the love, commitment and care AIDS/LifeCycle has generated through this medium.”
Meanwhile, Vaughn Frisby only had this to say: “Can we fast track to next June … pleeeeease?”
Join AIDS/LifeCycle 2021, June 6-12! Register today at aidslifecycle.org