Troy Valls - Rider # 10
The SMART Ride 14 marks my 5th Anniversary joining this incredible 165-mile journey from Miami to Key West. From the very first day I decided to join years ago, I set my mind on joining this ride each and every year until there wasn't any longer a need to raise money in the fight to see a future free from HIV/AIDS.
This year, a sobering reality has led me to evolve my involvement in the ride.
By most recent counts, South Florida remains the area in the entirety of the U.S. ranked #1 for new annual infections. Yet, as we're experiencing with recruitment for The SMART Ride, it's, at the same time, the most fatigued and latent of communities. This year, generating support and involvement, recruiting riders, volunteers and crew is proving challenging.
Moving forward, to help generate involvement in Miami-Dade County, I've taken on the ambition of building and sustaining a team(s) focused on bringing in new blood -- new awareness, uniting members of the LGBTQ community, our allies, and those personally affected by HIV and not, alike.
Having lived with HIV for 7 years, but with the privilege of being surrounded by an unbreakable support system of loving family and friends, being gainfully employed, and also comprehensively insured, it's not lost on me that my circumstance is not the same as what far too many are living today.
Did you know that national studies estimate that up to 40% of all homeless under the age of 24 identify as LGBTQ? It's also true that these individuals are disproportionately affected by HIV, sexual assault, violence and inadequate access to behavioral and mental health resources.
We can not allow advanced medication and preventative measures to mislead us into thinking HIV is no longer the problem it once was. While many of us might be able to comfortably go about our daily lives without so much as a thought about it; far too many are still plagued by the fear and uncertainty of what their status might be, or if they are diagnosed, where treatment, care and counsel might come from.
On November 18th and 19th, my team and I will join hundreds on the annual 165-mile ride from Miami to Key West. We ride with passion, with determination, with pride, and the joy of a dream to see a future without HIV or AIDS.
With your help over the years, we've contributed $22,500 to the cause, which in totality as turned $8.5million over to those local organizations throughout the state of Florida doing the hard work, on the ground, each and every day.
Every cent we raise goes directly to those benefiting organizations. And your continued support is encouraged and appreciated. Remember, no amount is ever too small. Every dollar helps.
We can share the words of Margaret Mead "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has".