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GAINESVILLE – The Arc of Alachua County will host 25 bicyclists next week, on Wednesday, May 26, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. for the annual Gear Up Florida/Ability Experience Friendship Visit. The bicyclists, who are traveling throughout the State of Florida raising awareness about developmental disabilities, will be led onto The Arc’s main campus across from Santa Fe College by Santa Fe College police escort, and greeted by Arc employees and its developmentally disabled clients. Once on campus, Florida State Representative Chuck Clemons, Arc Board President Cathy Costello and Arc President/CEO Mark A. Swain will formally welcome the bikers, who are representing colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Each year, these civic-minded bicyclists spend the month of May biking the State of Florida raising awareness of developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 trip and all of the Friendship Visits, including the Gainesville event. But these athletic and caring young people are once again putting on their helmets and riding their two-wheelers under the hot Florida sun. The bikers will celebrate their stop in Gainesville by signing ball caps for our Arc clients, enjoying lunch with our clients and employees, listening to music and dancing, and taking a group photo by the large Arc sign on NW 83rd St.  
Officials with The Arc and The Ability Experience are partnering together to make the Gear Up Florida, Gainesville Friendship Visit as safe as possible given any lingering COVID-19 concerns. The number of attendees will be limited to fewer than 100. Guests will be asked to wear masks unless eating, drinking or speaking. All attendees will be asked to practice social distancing. Extra hand sanitizer will be available during the entire event. All Arc employees and clients in attendance, as well as the bicyclists, will all be individuals who have been vaccinated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Attendees will enjoy box lunches from Dos Mamas Catering and Michael Davis, aka ‘Mr. October DJ,’ will lead the bikers, clients, staff, and visitors in some dancing and singing. As we do each-and-every year at what one Arc client has called, “…the funnest event all year,” the festivities will end with a large group photo taken in front of The Arc’s sign on NW 83rd St. at 12:55 p.m. As is the case each year, the itinerary this year will take the team of bicyclists to the gorgeous Gainesville Health & Fitness Center at 1:15 p.m. for an afternoon of swimming and relaxation. The bikers will then head over to Trinity United Methodist Church where they will enjoy dinner (also prepared by Dos Mamas Catering) and eventually ‘bed down’ for the evening.
“This event gets everybody involved, bikers, staff members, the clients, the donors, and the community. Our clients look forward to seeing the bicyclists being escorted onto our campus by motorcycle police with sirens blaring and lights flashing.’ It will be a lot of fun, and is an event we really look forward to this year given the cancellation of last year’s event due to COVID-19,” stated Mark A. Swain, Arc of Alachua County’s President/CEO.

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