As Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) prepares to participate in the SMART Ride for the ninth consecutive year, there is an excitement and determination in the air. For the Medical Care Coordinators of CDTC’s Comprehensive Family AIDS Program (CFAP), funds from the annual cycling event help them save lives every day.
In April, CFAP took seven HIV positive clients to Camp Key. The annual 3-day retreat isn’t a reward, but a motivational and inspirational activity shown to help patients do better in care and remain undetectable longer. This year, the staff invited women over 50 years-old who were struggling to stay healthy due to extra challenges in their life.
Activities with Medical Care Coordinators, Physicians and Clients began Friday night with a fireside “Letting Go” ceremony where everyone was encouraged to write down whatever is blocking them from being their best self and let it go into the fire.
The rest of the weekend’s activities encouraged each to try new things like canoeing and hiking – and success brought out a new confidence in each of them. One client who had suffered two strokes accomplished a mile long walk alongside CDTC Physician Dr. Vanessa Rojas. The normally shy group of women were outgoing and full of laughter by the talent show Saturday night.
“These women are usually overshadowed with stigma. It’s a huge part of their lives. They feel trapped and can’t share their status with the people closest to them,” shares Dr. Vanessa Rojas. “Camp helps free them of the burden of stigma, giving them a renewed sense of empowerment to go forth living healthy lives that anyone can attain.”
Unique services and support like Camp Key are only possible through support by the SMART Ride presented by CAN Community Health. The Center was selected in January as one of seven beneficiaries for the ninth consecutive year. Over the years, the ride has contributed close to $1M to CDTC’s program dedicated to serving women and children living with HIV and AIDS.
Every dollar received from SMART Ride provides a life-changing direct service to HIV positive women and children. Beyond activities like Camp Key, clients also receive HIV testing, medical care and medications when insurance is not available or does not cover costs. Transportation, support groups, emergency assistance and HIV education are all also available using the annual donations from the Ride.
“The SMART Ride has impacted the lives of each of our clients in our Comprehensive Family AIDS Program,” shares Ana E. Calderon Randazzo, Ph.D., Executive Director of CDTC. “The dedication and support of the SMART Ride and its participants are inspiring and crucial as we battle the growing epidemic of HIV diagnosis in South Florida.”
One of the most unique features of the Ride is its 100% guarantee that every dollar raised by riders and crew is donated to one of their chosen agencies, not used to produce the massive event. In addition, agencies benefiting are carefully chosen to ensure that funds are used only for direct services to clients in need, not overhead and administrative costs. The process ensures, every dollar donated goes where it can help the most.
SMART Ride 16 begins at the University of Miami on November 15th & 16th. This year’s ride benefits Broward House and Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center serving Broward County; Metro Inclusive Health serving Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties; Pridelines serving Miami-Dade County; AIDS Help serving Monroe County; Miracle of Love serving Central Florida; and Compass Community Center serving Palm Beach County.
Registration for riders and crew members is now open. Participants need not be a professional rider; riders range in age and experience and all have a goal of raising awareness and funds.
Interested riders and volunteers are welcome to attend any scheduled Information Session in Broward County to learn more about the ride. Training rides are also offered several times a month. For a schedule of events visit the SMART Ride at www.thesmartride.org or on Facebook.