The event benefited the Test Positive Aware Network, an HIV/AIDS health center and advocacy group based in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.
Riders began training just over eight months ago.Throughtout their preparation, riders were required to raise at least $1,000 in pledges. Participants joining the event as crewmembers were encouraged to raise $500 each.
“Unlike other rides of this kind, Ride for AIDS Chicago is committed to returning 100 percent of pledges to the people who come for needed services,” said TPAN Development Director Ryan VanMeter.
Registration and corporate sponsorships underwrote the costs of producing the event.
The 200-mile cycling event took riders from Highland Park to the shores of Lake Geneva and Green Lake, Wis. on Saturday. The return trip started early Sunday morning, after an evening of swimming in the lake and relaxing by campfire. Cyclists slept in campground cabins.
Ride For AIDS Chicago website noted $600,000 in raised pledges as of Monday morning, breaking previous records.
“Thank you all for what you’ve done to make this the most successful year ever!” said Richard Cordova, director of athletic events for TPAN. Last year, the event raised over $535,000.
The top fundraiser in 2012 was James Sumers of the Chicago Athletic Clubs team, who set a personal goal of raising $25,000 and beat it by $275, as of Sunday evening.
“Last year was the first time I had biked in years, and I was a bit nervous about the prospect of cycling so many miles,” Sumer said ahead of the event.
Passionate about HIV/AIDS causes, Sumers participated in AIDS/LifeCycle last month. It was a 7-day 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, June 3-9.
Second on the leaderboard for fundraising was Dr. Robert Garofalo, director of Adolescent HIV Services at Lurie Children’s Hospital, with $12,035 raised as of Sunday evening. The former Howard Brown Health Center director was a member of Team CUR (Chicago Urban Riders) and was aided with a $10,000 matching gift to TPAN, provided by a personal friend.
“Preparing for the Ride for AIDS Chicago has been an extremely challenging and rewarding endeavor for me and for the more than 250 other riders who have been preparing for this,” Garofalo said. “It’s the support of friends, family and complete strangers that make this adventure worth it for me and the entire team.”
Of the many teams of riders, the 41-member Team Cheetah raised the most money with $67,018, surpassing its $62,000 goal. Team CUR came in second, raising $51,652 by Sunday evening, beating its $35,000 goal.
Closing Ceremony festivities started at 3 p.m. Sunday and climaxed with the procession of riders through a red finish line curtain. Volunteers in red shirts followed behind, singing and screaming to rally everyone in attendance.
After remarks by TPAN organizers, the band started playing The Beatles’ “In My Life” and the ceremony took a somber detour. The gathering reflected on those who died in the past year to HIV/AIDS.
A symbolic riderless bike was processed through the crowds as riders and volunteers with HIV/AIDS were invited to gather in front. Tears overcame the group as they embraced each other.
The next Ride For AIDS will take place on July 13-14, 2013.