Team Toyota Starts (and Finishes) Their Impossible

At the start of the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, it was hard for the members of Toyota’s first-ever team of cyclists to imagine the mental and physical challenges the 545-mile, 7-day journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles would bring. But together, Team Toyota was committed to Starting their Impossible, and by the time they had crossed the finish line on June 9, they had collectively biked nearly 5,000 miles and raised over $43,000 for HIV/AIDS services, education, and awareness.

It all began in 2015 when Pete Carey, then TMNA vice president and general manager of the San Francisco Region, and Justin Leach, public relations manager of TFS Corporate Communications, devised a plan to lend 50 Toyota vehicles to AIDS/LifeCycle medical, media, safety and support teams through the entire week. The following year, Ryan Hines, now senior analyst in TFS corporate communications, was contracted to manage the logistics of Toyota’s sponsorship in 2016.

“I was so incredibly moved by the community that I decided to sign up on my own as a cyclist for 2017,” said Ryan Hines, captain of this year’s Toyota team. “There was no Team Toyota at the time. When I started at the new Toyota headquarters in fall 2017, I wanted to grow our sponsorship – including inviting Toyota colleagues and friends to join me. My manager Justin and the entire team supported this endeavor, and Remarketing was once again on board — this time determine to step up the number of vehicles loaned.”

Team Toyota was made up of team members from across the organization including Gus Camacho, senior manager, Operations & Management Development Division, TEMA; Inia Franklin, Dealer Credit financial analyst, TFS; Juan Gomez, sales consultant, Frontier Toyota; Stephen Hughes, planning administrator, TRI; Emma Seidler, marketing design analyst, TFS; Wendy Walker, remediation and incident response consultant, TMNA; Dillon Stroope from Toyota’s advertising partner Saatchi & Saatchi; and friend Rob Bult.

Volunteers included Corinne Akahoshi, senior manager of Toyota Transport Strategy and Operations, TLS; and Robin Palmer, senior analyst, Dealer Credit, TFS. Ellena Zimmerman, Remarketing admin specialist, TFS, volunteered all week as an event photographer.

Plano-based teammates Hines, Seidler, Walker, and Franklin raised over $1,200 in two hours during a Facebook LIVE fundraiser.

Hines led the team through a variety of creative fundraising efforts. Sales from Toyota-branded cycling gear, custom-designed for the AIDS/LifeCycle team, raised over $4,000. And a Facebook Live fundraiser in the HQ fitness center hosted by Plano-based team members Hines, Seidler, Walker, and Franklin raised over $1,200 in two hours.

“Being part of the creation and sales of the custom cycling gear made this project so much more rewarding,” said Seidler, who designed all creative assets, including full vehicle wraps, rear window wraps, signage, and social media graphics.

Gomez, who lost his uncle Jose Zatarain to AIDS in 1993, rode to remember his uncle, and to make amends with the gay community for his past. “When I was growing up, there was a lot of making fun of gay people,” Gomez said. “I partook in that, and I’m not proud of that. When you challenge the status quo of bigotry, that makes change.”

Walker was also riding for a family member. Her brother Danny passed away of AIDS-related complications in 2005. Her family was unprepared for his diagnosis and didn’t know where to seek help. Through the selfless assistance of a local nonprofit organization, Walker’s brother was able to live with dignity, and she wants other families to know they will never be alone in the fight against the disease.

The event, produced by and benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. LGBT Center, raised a record-breaking $16.6M. TFS Remarketing lent nearly 70 vehicles to AIDS/Lifecycle, allowing the money saved on car rentals (over $40,000) to instead be directed to life-saving services, including research shared globally.

Team members train year-round, supporting other local nonprofits through organized charity bike rides. To learn more, email Ryan Hines at ryan.hines@toyota.com.

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