Washington, D.C., Charities to Drop AIDS Ride Promoter

Sponsors of the upcoming Washington, D.C., AIDS Ride, a three-day bicycle trip to raise money for AIDS charities, said Thursday that registration for the event is lagging dramatically and that they will sever ties to the event's promoter after the June ride is over. The Whitman-Walker Clinic and Food & Friends, which each received $1.7 million from last year's AIDS Ride, are the latest in a series of corporate and philanthropic sponsors that have recently decided to break with Pallotta TeamWorks, a private, for-profit company that stages the fundraising events. The split was amicable, according to charity officials, and was not prompted by the low registration.

Pallotta will still run this year's 330-mile ride, which will leave Norfolk June 13 bound for Washington. But with registration down 40 percent, the charities are concerned that net proceeds will plunge as well. Each participant is required to raise $2,400 to join, though many collect far more. Pallotta's fee for the ride is $225,000. Expenses are paid by the sponsoring organizations.

Instead of participating in the AIDS Ride in the future, Whitman-Walker, which offers health care to AIDS patients, will look for more corporate donors, said Executive President Cornelius Baker. Food & Friends, which delivers home meals to AIDS patients, will stage its own bike ride next summer.

Officials with both charities said their decision not to renew their contract did not signal dissatisfaction with Pallotta, which has netted them $14 million from six previous rides. "We feel Pallotta has done a good job," said Craig Shniderman, executive director of Food & Friends. "But it's like taking a bus trip and having the choice of being a passenger or a driver. We've been a passenger for six years. We think it's time for Food & Friends to drive the bus," Shniderman said.

Last year, after receiving 52 percent of donations to an AIDS ride in California, two beneficiaries there decided to drop Pallotta and organize their own ride. Pallotta filed suit, still in arbitration, to block the ride, which was held this month. The new event drew less than a quarter of the number who participated last year.

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