Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 21, No. 3, Ed. 1 Friday, May 28, 2004 Page: 48 of 72
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Despite the spectacular failure of a once-proud producer,
cyclists keep riding to raise money for AIDS
By Jim Provenzano Sports Complex
Pallotta TeamWorks, famous for creating the
first AIDS rides, has gone out of business. But
cyclists continue to raise money in rides with
smaller budgets and in-house management. Each
new ride also maintains an individual style and
range in geographic area, from New York City
and San Francisco, to rural trips in Texas and
The gradual demise of Pallotta TeamWorks
was fraught with lawsuits and losses. In 2001,
78.6 percent of funds raised for the national
AIDS Vaccine Ride created and administered by
Pallotta went to overhead costs. Subsequent rides
Also in 2001, the San Francisco AIDS
Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and
Lesbian Center broke ties with Dan Pallotta’s
company over costs and contract disputes, and
created their own ride, the AIDS/LifeCycle.
Pallotta TeamWorks threatened a lawsuit and
switched its list of beneficiaries. The Center and
the San Francisco AIDS Foundation suffered a
decrease in donations, but recovered the next
year. Pallotta TeamWorks didn’t.
Cal Callahan works in the volunteer services
department for the San Francisco AIDS
Foundation, has crewed on four Pallotta rides
and is a member of Team Bear, a group of hirsute
gay men and their friends. AJDS/LifeCycle’s
next ride is June 6-12. With about 1,400 partici-
pants this year, Callahan says the foundation’s
new rides are working.
Dan Pallotta did a great thing at the-beginning,
Callahan says. “He brought charity fund-raising
to a new level. But it was always essentially
about him. He went from about seven events a
year to 27 events a year. He tried to grow the
company too fast. What we saw was just ques-
Callahan disapproved of Pallotta’s speeches to
participants in which he told them to sign up for
more rides and that participants were still not
Team Bear is an attempt “to address the stereo-
types that bears would not do this kind of event,”
says Callahan. “We’re a somewhat neglected
subculture,” he says, of the presumption “that
basically the bears will eat and drink, and not do
But his group isn’t limited to hairy guys. “The
first year, we had a bearish straight guy and a
Filipino woman,” he says. “She was our
David C. Smith, ride director for Austin’s Hill
Country Ride for AIDS, admits that having only
320 participants makes for a small ride. But he
adds, “It feels big because everyone’s excited by
With minimum pledges of $600 — less than a
quarter of what the last Pallotta TeamWorks
events required — the average Hill Country rider
raises more than $1,000.
Having worked on Pallotta-organized rides
that failed to bring even 30 percent net profit,
Smith says their own event “turned into some-
thing positive. But ours was really grassroots —
no fancy banners along the roads, just the power
of the community coming together.”
The ride, which took place in April, raised over
$397,000, surpassing its own goal.
For Braking the Cycle’s first 2003 ride, 47 rid-
ers netted $151,000 on a ride through
Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to New York City
to benefit the AIDS programs of New York’s
LGBT Community Services Center.
Registrations for the 2004 ride are up 170 per-
cent. More than 80 riders will take a similar route
this Sept. 10-12.
Eric Epstein, president of Global Impact
Tours, created Braking the Cycle. His company
runs trips to Thailand and Africa and a hiking
tour through Honduras, where participants visit
an orphanage that receives funds from tour fees.
“You meet the people for whom you’re mak-
ing a difference,” says Epstein.
A former AIDS activist who handed out con-
doms and safer sex information to New York
City students, Epstein worked with Pallotta
TeamWorks from 1996 to 2001. But after
becoming “increasingly disaffected with the
direction the company was going,” Epstein left.
“There’s no escaping the fact that [Pallotta]
had a brilliant idea,” says Epstein. “But he let the
focus get away.”
Epstein says that Pallotta’s company “made a
strategic decision, with a change in the marketing
that went from it being about AIDS to it being
about personal challenge. Those things led away
the core committed riders.”
To contend with competition from other fund-
raisers, Epstein works with previous beneficiar-
ies who have access to veterans of past events.
Growth comes by word of mouth, and Epstein
focuses on donated ads and services.
The concept of AIDS rides continues on a
leaner scale, but Epstein sees a cautious expan-
sion into newer rides.
“People really appreciate what we’re doing,
keeping the focus on the cause,” he says. “Even
the ones doing the rides are skeptical that it could
tip at any moment. That keeps us all honest.”
Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels
"PINS” and "Monkey Suits. ”
E-mail sportscomplex@qsyndicate. com
48 1 dallasvoice.com I 05.28.04
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 21, No. 3, Ed. 1 Friday, May 28, 2004, newspaper, May 28, 2004; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth616511/m1/48/: accessed June 16, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.