U.S. Air Force Captain Anthony Interrante, 34, refused to let a Middle East deployment stop him from riding in this year’s AIDS/LifeCycle or from finishing the 545-mile ride, which began on Sunday, May 31, as one of the top fundraisers.
How does a critical care flight nurse serving in Afghanistan raise more than $59,000 to fight HIV? “Easy,” says the built and chiseled native of Philadelphia, “I mostly used Grindr and Scruff.”
“People told me I should send out emails to friends telling them about my training and asking for their support,” says Interrante. “But training wasn’t exactly something that comes easy in Bagram. If I had to talk about training, I’d end up having to pay my own way.”
So the openly gay Air Force officer turned to social media – but not just Facebook.
“I would engage with everyone around the world who would send me a ‘woof’ or whatever, eventually telling them that I was going to be riding 545 miles to help end HIV and that I’d appreciate their support. I was amazed by how generous people were.”
About $56,000 of the money he raised for the seven-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles was from hundreds of strangers — representing every continent, including Antarctica — who were enticed to connect with him online via his sexy swimsuit picture.
“I know I’ve got a lot of thank you notes to write and I’m truly humbled by all the support,” says the Vacaville, California resident, “and not just for me, but for the amazing work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Los Angeles LGBT Center that benefit from this event.”
The fundraising certainly proved to be easier than the training, since riding a road bike in Bagram wasn’t an option, and not just because of the 100-degree heat. “I did more CrossFit than anyone should and I learned to own a spin bike for two to three hours at a time,” says Interrante, who didn’t ride an actual bike until the 82-mile first day of AIDS/LifeCycle.
How’s he doing after day three? “I’m feeling great,” says the member of AIDS/LifeCycle’s Team Mary, “and I’m feeling even better that we’ve raised more than $16 million to fight HIV. I’ve never lost anyone to HIV and I’m riding because I don’t want anyone to have to deal with that kind of loss.”