Seven South Florida AIDS agencies will benefit from the 165-mile Smart Ride leaving Miami for Key West on Friday, Jan. 19.
“It’s my whole identity,” said co-coordinator of Key West Mile Markers Don Dotzauer, whose personal fundraising is at more than $15,000 for this year. His goal for the team this year was to get to $75,000 for the 25-person team. That was before Irma, that was before hurricane debris piles were a common sight along the training routes.
“Despite the hurricane, we are going to crush our goal,” he said. “We never thought we would be able to get to our pre-hurricane goal, but we are at $72,349.”
Dotzauer went to a tea dance at La Te Da in 2015 and heard about the ride. With a heart health setback a few months earlier, he started riding his mountain bike 20 to 30 miles a few days a week. “Some riders were talking about the Smart Ride, and I said, ‘Well, hell, I’ll do it and I’ll raise $5,000,’” and he did. This year, he co-coordinates the team with rider Karen Frank-Noll.
Last year, the ride raised more than a million dollars, with $123,000 of it going to AIDS Help of Monroe County. “This year, more than ever, the agencies will need the financial help,” he said. “The hurricane impacted all of these agencies.”
The hurricane also affected the original ride date – which had been set for November – and the riders’ ability to train along their normal 30-mile roundtrip route from Key West to Baby’s Coffee.
“The route is still very dangerous, especially in Big Coppitt,” he said, where the debris pile sits on the U.S.1 bike path and shoulder. “Our biggest concern is safety; we just want to make sure all the riders make it to Key West with no incidents.”
When the riders make it to Key West, they will be celebrating a successful trip and successful fundraising efforts, probably around the $600,000 mark for this year. “The community really stepped up this year to help,” said Dotzauer. Friends like Dennis Sloat and Darla Pope married in 2017 and, in lieu of gifts, asked for donations to Smart Ride as well as raffled bikes off at their tutu-themed wedding.
“We know there are people who rely on this funding,” said Sloat. “It’s the least we could do.”
On Saturday, Jan. 20, after the riders take off on the second leg of the journey from Marathon, there will be a welcoming committee set up at Key West High School and then a community ride starting around 4 p.m. to the AIDS Memorial at Higgs Beach.
To make a donation to the team, or to an individual rider, visit thesmartride.org.
The Key West Mile Markers will host a fundraiser on Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. at Grand Vin on Duval Street in Key West. There will be a wine tasting, silent auction, 50/50 raffle, and raffle for a tandem bike painted by Rick Worth.