Rick Weber and Peter Schwartz have assembled their largest team ever for this weekend’s Cycle for the Cause, a 275-mile bike ride from Boston to New York City to benefit the NYC LGBT Community Center’s HIV/AIDS prevention and support services.
The couple told Outsports they first decided to take part more than a decade ago.
“I had a few friends that passed at very young ages due to HIV and this was a way for me to channel that into something positive for the community,” said Schwartz. “So, initially this was just something good to do. Then three weeks before our first ride, Rick discovers he’s positive and then our world was turned upside down, but The Center was there for us.”
“The Center really saved my life,” said Weber.
“We’ve relied on them for [everything from] counseling, to support groups, to drug assistance,” Schwartz told Outsports.
“C4C is a great way for me to give back and help my community,” added Weber.
Determined to make a difference, the couple decided to put together a team. But where would they find enough friends willing to join them?
They had to look no further than their favorite watering hole, The Eagle, a historic leather bar in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
Since a lot of their friends weren’t cyclists, Weber and Schwartz worked with their team to train them and guide them through the fundraising process.
“Every year the ride is different,” Weber said, acknowledging that some of the cyclists are first-time riders. “It really opens up the conversation and awareness about HIV/AIDS. We can raise all the money we want, but you can’t put a dollar amount on awareness. It allows people who have never met an HIV-positive person to do so. It allows them to come up to me and ask me any question they want.”
Now, more than 10 years later, their team is both a centerpiece of both Cycle for the Cause and The Eagle. So far, Team Eagle has raised more than $1 million of the $14 million raised by this event since its inception in 1995.
For the 25th annual Cycle for the Cause this year, the guys have 36 participants. “The most riders we’ve ever had!” said Weber.
“This will be our biggest ride to date,” Schwartz said. “So that changes so many things, including our overall fundraising potential. With the growth of the ride, the ‘small town feel’ of the ride does change to some degree, but it’s always wonderful to see so many new folks being brought into the fold and joining the ride community for the common good.”
The route starts on Friday, September 20, in Boston, with overnight stops in Framingham, Mass., Mashantucket, Conn., and Trumbull, Conn. Nearly 500 people will take part, and that number includes crew members as well as riders. They’ll reach their destination on Sunday, September 22: The Center at 208 West 13th Street in Manhattan. The closing ceremonies are known as The Red Party at The Center and are free and open to the public.
“We’ve made incredible strides in the fight against AIDS over the past few decades,” said Glennda Testone, The Center’s Executive Director, in a statement. “But as long as the disease exists, we can’t claim victory.
The Center says that for every $100 raised by Cycle for the Cause, The Center can provide three young people with HIV testing and safe sex counseling sessions and 21 adults with connections to HIV prevention services.
“The funds and awareness that Cycle for the Cause raises ensure that we can keep making progress, and strengthen our efforts to stamp out HIV and AIDS once and for all,” Testone said.
“I do the ride so that someone doesn’t have to go through what we went through,” said Schwartz. “So that if the services are needed, they are always there for that person; so that our kids may know of HIV/AIDS as a thing of the past.”
Find out more about the Cycle for the Cause by following them with the hashtag #cycleforthecause on Instagram and on Facebook, More information about The Center’s fundraising efforts can be found by clicking here.