Riding 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles is how the AIDS/LifeCycle community has joined together every year since 1994 to raise millions for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
But then came COVID-19, forcing organizers of the bike journey to cancel this year’s ride scheduled for May 31 – June 6.
Despite the cancellation, many participants are still raising much-needed funds through the innovative My 545 challenge launched this week. Instead of actually riding a bike outdoors, the virtual campaign gives participants the opportunity to take on a different physical challenge of their choosing within the parameters of social distancing and sheltering in place.
The challenge could be, for example, 545 minutes of indoor cycling, 545 push-ups, or walking or jogging 545 laps around the neighborhood.
“The AIDS/LifeCycle community has been incredible through the crisis,” says Ride Director Tracy Evans. “The number one question has been, ‘How can I help?’ I am really happy that we have been able to put something together that can be a continued anchor for folks fundraising—keep everyone moving and provide a shared experience even while we are all apart.”
In order to maintain the current level of HIV/AIDS services provided to the community, both organizations have set a joint fundraising goal of $13 million—of which $6 million has already been raised by the ride’s participants.
“When all is said and done, we have a $6.8 million gap for continuing the critical work at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation,” Evans explains. “Both agencies have had to get creative in how the programs and services are being delivered to the clients—we need to ensure that they are able to continue even during this crazy time.”
The work of both organizations continues during the public health crisis. The Center is a first-responder to the LGBT community and is providing direct support to LGBT seniors and youth, including housing and meals, and continues to provide uninterrupted HIV and AIDS-related health care along with virtual support for mental health care and social networking groups.
The Foundation is providing virtual support groups, mental health services, and social support to seniors, people who use substances, and those living with or at-risk for HIV.
“While most of us are sheltering in place, HIV/AIDS isn’t,” Evans says. “Our community understands how much work has been done to end AIDS and isn’t willing to let that work be jeopardized even in the most difficult of circumstances.”
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. Use discount code MY545 to waive the registration fee.
Participants have until May 31 to raise funds and complete their challenge. From May 31 through June 6, a week of virtual activities for participants will be offered to capture the unique spirit of the ride.