Whitman-Walker Clinic, Food & Friends to Sever Relationship With Pallotta TeamWorks Following June’s Washington AIDSRide
The Whitman-Walker Clinic and Food & Friends, two sponsors of the Washington, D.C., AIDSRide, announced yesterday that they will sever ties with the ride's promoter, Pallotta TeamWorks, after this year's event, the Washington Post reports. The D.C. AIDSRide, which runs from Norfolk, Va., to Washington, D.C., will take place this year from June 13 to June 16. Although Whitman-Walker Clinic and Food & Friends each received $1.7 million from last year's D.C. AIDSRide, registration for this year's event has dropped by 40% from last year's participation levels. Spokespersons from the two organizations said that they do not expect to raise "anywhere near" the money raised last year during this year's ride, but stated that low participation was not a factor in the split with Pallotta. Officials with the two groups said that the break with Pallotta was "amicable" and that the decision not to renew the contract for next year's AIDSRide "did not signal dissatisfaction" with the company. "We feel Pallotta has done a good job. 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," Food & Friends Executive Director Craig Shniderman said. Food & Friends plans to stage its own bike ride fundraiser next summer, but Whitman-Walker has decided to try a different approach. Cornelius Baker, executive president of Whitman-Walker Clinic, said that his organization will "look for more corporate donors in the future." Whitman-Walker offers health care to people with HIV/AIDS, and Food & Friends delivers home meals to people with AIDS. The organizations have received a total of $14 million from the six previous D.C. AIDSRides.
Baker and Shniderman stated that the " controversy over Pallotta's methods" of staging its events is "partially responsible for the lower turnout" for this year's D.C. AIDSRide (Morello/Smith, Washington Post, 5/31). Last year, two sponsors of the California AIDSRide split with Pallotta after a dispute over the proceeds of the event. The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation created their own bicycle fundraiser, AIDS/LifeCycle, because they felt that Pallotta devoted too much of the funds raised from the California AIDSRide to marketing and operations expenses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/20). Although the net proceeds from the D.C. AIDSRides are typically high, Pallotta charges $225,000 to promote the ride, and additional expenses are paid by the sponsoring organizations. The Post reports that expenses for Pallotta events can "run into the millions" because they include, among other things, such "creature comforts for participants" as cucumber masks and massages. Wayne Turner, coordinator of ACT UP/D.C., called Pallotta "an AIDS profiteer," saying that "instead of staying in the community to provide life-saving services to people dying of AIDS ... tens of millions of dollars ... have gone to overhead and production costs and promoters' fees to produce these very expensive and poorly performing fundraisers." Janna Sidley, a spokesperson for Pallotta, said that the company has "vowed to be more cost-conscious this year" by renegotiating vendor contracts, reducing the size of its stage and eliminating brand-name snacks. "We are doing our best to be good stewards of donors' money. These events are expensive to put on," Sidley said (Washington Post, 5/31). WAMU News today also reported on the split between Whitman-Walker, Food & Friends and Pallotta. The full segment is available online in RealPlayer Audio (Marshall, "WAMU News," WAMU, 5/31).