This is the season for charity runs, walks, rides, and races — not to annoy motorists, as some may think, but to help those in need, to fund research, to raise awareness, to contribute time, energy, money, or skill to a cause that’s enormously daunting, but a little less so when there’s a big, loud, passionate crowd facing it down.
There is strength in numbers, and walks to cure diabetes, cancer, ALS, spinal muscular atrophy, neuroblastoma, autism, muscular dystrophy are all good. Cocktails for a Cause? Laughs for Literacy? Harbor to the Bay? These are just a few in a long line of upcoming charitable events, which shows that we are not the all-about-me selfish people we’re so often told we are.
That it’s Harbor to the Bay’s 10th anniversary is significant because 10 years is a milestone for any organization. But more significant is that this community initiative has no paid staff. There are no paid workers at all. The 125-mile AIDS benefit bike ride from Boston to Provincetown (or 68 from upper Cape Cod) is planned, supported, and executed by a dedicated group of volunteers.
“If we can’t get it donated, we don’t have it,” says Jim Morgrage, co-owner and manager of Boston’s Club Cafe, which, along with Bay Windows, Boston, is the ride’s principal sponsor.
T-shirts, prizes for riders, press releases, the site’s Web page, even the fees for processing credit cards are donated. Bread & Roses Bakery of Ogunquit, Maine, makes hundreds of lunches every year and delivers them. “Complete with homemade cookies,” Morgrage adds.
He insists most people are generous. “All I have to do is make a call and people say, ‘What do you need?’ ”
This year, for the first time, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino will help kick off the event, which begins nextSaturday morning, with breakfast at Trinity Church. Yes, the breakfast is donated, too.
Because of all the donations and volunteers (there are several hundred the day of the ride, who actually pay a fee to work), every penny given to Harbor to the Bay goes to fighting AIDS, donated to Fenway Community Health, Aids Support Group of Cape Cod, Community Research Initiative, and AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.
In 10 years, these pennies have totaled $2.5 million.
AIDS isn’t in the news much anymore, but it has not goneaway.
About 1.2 million Americans have it, and one in five doesn’t even know it. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that some 50,000 Americans are newly infected with HIV each year. And though no longer a death sentence, the disease is chronic and contagious.
Stopping it was Michael Tye’s passion. The youngest son of the late philanthropist Ray Tye, Michael was like his siblings and his father, always reaching out and helping people. He saw young men sick and dying and he did something.A bicyclist, he participated for years in rides to raise money for AIDS, cycling from Boston to New York. But he became increasingly disillusioned by how much of the money raised was spent organizing the event.
He took his concerns to his family and his friendsand said we can do this betterand we can do this here. And with their help, he planned a local ride and dubbed it Harbor to the Bay. But then he got cancer,multiple myeloma, and died at the age of 49.
Friends picked up where he left off. They knew Harbor to the Bay was his mission and his passion. For 10 years, they have honored his plans.
Amit Dixit, who is HIV positive, will ride Saturday for the fourth consecutive year. He says the ride is powerful and “challenges me to remember. Each pedal, you think about people. Everyone has someone to remember.”
Mark Tye, who lives in Colorado, remembers his brother’s goodness. “I’ve ridden his bike for 10 years. I ride and I think about him. I think what’s been done because of him, the dollars raised, the treatments found. . . .I think it’s a wonderful gift he left behind.”
For more information visit www.harbortothebay.org.