By DALE MADISON
The SMART Ride is a two-day bicycle ride that spans 165 miles from Miami to Key West, with this year’s ride scheduled the weekend of November 16 and 17. What began in 2001 as the Walgreens Red Ribbon Ride has grown to one of the state’s premiere events, expected to attract over 600 participants this year. “Since 2004, the ride has raised over $3.3 million,” says longtime participant Carmine Martorilli. “We will start in Pine Crest at Morning Star Catholic Church, and head South for 100 miles, and then overnight at Hawks Cay Resort. Next morning, following breakfast, the teams head out to Key West.”
“That first year, I pushed my partner, Robert [Poster], into getting involved, and now he has not only done the ride, but is also involved in helping with the team that supports the riders,” Martorilli recalls. “As of now, there are 560 people registered. That includes riders and crews. Last year, there were 399 riders, and 219 in the support crew. Oh, and by the way, Mr. Madison, you are going to be on the team this year,” he adds. Well, I guess I know where I will be that weekend.
The group has a doctor who travels with them, to make sure that any potential injury is handled immediately. “Our physician is Dr. Marah Lee, from Imperial Point Hospital.
She actually closes her office and pays her staff for the weekend so that she can be with us,” Martorilli notes with a mixture of pride and affection. “That is the sort of dedication that we have for the SMART Ride. Once we get into Key West, we take over the White Street Pier for the closing ceremony.”
The ride attracts all kinds of supporters. “Last year, Leslie Jordan from ‘Will and Grace’ showed up to please the crowd. Once the ‘Riderless Bike’”—which represents riders who have fallen from the scourge of HIV/ AIDS—“shows up, there is not a dry eye on the pier,” Martorilli adds.
“This year we have so much help with feeding the teams. The Olive Garden will feed everyone on Friday night. On Saturday morning, Cliff Mulcahy and John Zieba from Rosie’s on Wilton Drive will provide breakfast, and then send their staff on to Key West to provide dinner. This is one of those events that is really supported by the community, and it is so gratifying to see that kind of support from a community that has lost so many to this disease,” he notes. “In addition, for Labor Day weekend, Shawn and Nick from Courtyard Café will hold a benefit, with a percentage of their total sales going to the SMART Ride. On August 22, Fort Lauderdale’s California Pizza Kitchen will hold a benefit all day, with a percentage of sales benefiting the ride,” Martorilli’s partner, Poster, adds.
As usual, the SMART Ride will give back 100 percent of the funds raised by participants to HIV/AIDS service organizations in Florida. The organization recently announced the beneficiaries for this year’s ride: Metro Charities in Tampa, Miracle of Love in Orlando, CAAPS in West Palm Beach, the Pride Center at Equality Park, the Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale, the Center for Positive Living in Miami, and the AIDS Help in Key West. The SMART Ride is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
For more information, visit thesmartride.org.