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AIDS Ride Gets Fresh Start 

Organizers of Tour de Friends say this year's fund-raiser will cut down sizably on what had become exorbitant production costs of previous rides. Since 1994, the rides have helped raise $3 million or more each year. But, according to a September article in The Washington Post, last year's ride returned only 14 percent, or $500,000 of the $3.6 million raised to the targeted AIDS-related agencies.

In addition, participation in last year's event had dropped to nearly half that of the year before. As a result, Washington, D.C.-based Food & Friends established Tour de Friends as an independent volunteer-driven nonprofit with an office on Dupont Circle. As such, planners say they can do more with less and pledge to give 50 percent of this year's proceeds to just three AIDS services organizations: Food & Friends; Raleigh-based Alliance of AIDS Services; and Richmond's Fan Free Clinic.

Two local teams already are gearing up for the ride, says Jim Beckner, executive director of Fan Free Clinic. The first is the "seasoned" Team St. Mark's representing St. Mark's Episcopal Church. The second is the nascent Team Fan Free Clinic, which includes Coris and Beckner. Beckner confesses he hasn't taken a serious bike ride in nearly 20 years.

"I'm looking forward to the event for what it will do for the community and what it will do for me personally," Beckner says. "It's going to be a challenge." Fan Free Clinic and Rowlett's are planning to hold an educational and recruitment meeting soon. For information on participating in Tour de Friends, call (202) 742-RIDE, or go online: www.TourdeFriends.com. —
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