#LoveDrives change on and off the road

Toyota sponsors AIDS/LifeCycle for the third consecutive year

by Ryan Hines, Toyota team member and AIDS/LifeCycle 2017 first-year cyclist

AIDS/LifeCycle is a 7-day, 545-mile charity bike ride down the California coast. Over 3,000 cyclists and volunteers raised over $15 million this year alone for life-saving services at the L.A. LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Yes, the numbers are impressive. But nothing is more impressive than the amazing people who make it all happen. They are the reason this is the world’s largest annual fundraising event for HIV/AIDS. It is the resilience and determination of this community, a community that can see a world without AIDS just over the horizon, that drives this event to be increasingly impactful year after year.

Toyota’s sponsorship began in 2015 when Pete Carey, while vice president and general manager, San Francisco Region for TMNA, and TFS Corporate Communications devised a plan to lend 50 Toyota vehicles to AIDS/LifeCycle medical, media, staff, and support teams throughout the week.

When I joined TFS Corporate Communications in April 2016, my first assignment was to manage Toyota’s second year of the sponsorship. I was excited to have joined a company that has such a direct impact in the communities where we live, work, and play – and eager to expand our partnership.

I had no idea AIDS/LifeCycle would become such a profound part of my life. I suddenly found myself along the route, interacting with cyclists all week promoting our new #LoveDrives campaign. I was warmly welcomed not just as a corporate sponsor, but embraced in what is affectionately called the “Love Bubble” community of riders and volunteers. It was their passion for the cause, and genuine gratitude for Toyota’s support that inspired me to sign up as a cyclist for 2017! Never mind that I had never ridden more than five miles in a day!

Because I witnessed first-hand the dedication and appreciation the AIDS/LifeCycle cyclists and staff had for Toyota, I felt strongly about a continued sponsorship for 2017. And once again, Pete Carey was eager to help. In One Toyota mindset, we reached out to the TFS/LFS Remarketing team, led by National Manager Mike Reid. Without hesitation, Mike was on board and the Remarketing team managed to secure a fleet of off-lease vehicles that were headed to auction to again serve the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. We were on for our third consecutive year of sponsorship.

I couldn’t have been more excited or proud. Not only was I managing the logistics of our sponsorship – and the activation of our on-site consumer engagement – I was participating as a cyclist. So much had been leading up to this moment. For months, I had been training and raising funds. And thanks to the support of friends, family, and fellow team members – whose donations were matched 100% through our new Toyota4Good program – I raised over $5,200 my first year as a cyclist.

“Thousands of us stood at the Cow Palace outside San Francisco that early morning, unsure of just exactly what the week would bring, especially for first-timers like me.”

On Sunday, June 4, 2017, as ready as I could be, it was time to roll out. “You will laugh, you will cry, and you will find yourself digging for reserves you never knew you had,” said Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. LGBT Center. Thousands of us stood at the Cow Palace outside San Francisco that early morning, unsure of just exactly what the week would bring, especially for first-timers like me.

I will never forget that moment, or the countless moments all week long when strangers came out of their home to cheer us on, thank us for our activism, or provide a snack to help sustain us to the next rest stop. “You are heroes,” I would read on posters – starting to realize the larger impact of this ride. In a climate when so many are unsure of how their medical needs will be met, or if their children will grow up in a world with respect for all, no matter a person’s gender expression, identity, or status, what we were doing on this ride – and all year long – meant everything to them. That realization brought me tears: tears of happiness and of empowerment. And Toyota was right there to support me not only professionally, but personally, and the AIDS/Life Community at large. Through this sponsorship, Toyota is committed to not only all those along the 545-mile route, but to the countless friends and family members who are spreading the word: Toyota stands with you. #LoveDrives