Breaking the cycle

For Lisa Cole, spokesperson for the Walgreens Red Ribbon Ride, the past has been erased. "This is really a first-time ride," says Cole regarding the 275-mile bike trek that took place March 25-28 to raise money for AIDS organizations. The last two rides -- which were known as the Florida AIDS Ride -- were financial fiascoes: In 1996 only 18 cents of every dollar raised went to agencies assisting people with AIDS. And 1997 was even worse: Only 5 cents on the dollar went to the benefiting agencies.

It was time to wipe the slate clean. The first and most important step: Dump the previous promoter, whose flat fee ended up siphoning off a huge chunk of the profits. In its place, a consortium of a half-dozen Florida AIDS agencies formed a partnership and took care of the planning. They hired Clear Results Marketing, who instead of a predetermined fee gets paid according to a sliding scale. The more money raised, the more money Clear Results gets.

This arrangement did the trick, but it wasn't easy. "It was a lot of work," says Caroline Gertz, executive director of the Orlando-based AIDS Resource Alliance. Some of the details that needed attention: training personnel, supplying food and water, and preparing each night's camping locations, replete with medical services and mess halls. But the enormity of the task didn't dissuade Gertz, who made the Orlando-to-Hollywood bike trip herself. "We had wanted to get involved," she says. "The agency wanted to have more control and involvement."

Past years saw more participants -- nearly 700 in 1997, compared to about 400 this year. But before the ride even got under way this past weekend the agencies knew they'd be getting more money than the $80,000 they had previously netted. The final amount has yet to be figured, but they're at least $25,000 ahead of last year.

Cole admits that the past had been a disappointment: "You hope for higher results." This time they may have gotten what they wished for: Already 300 people have signed up for next year's ride.

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