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Boston Cyclists Raise Funds for Phinney’s Friends

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Saturday Aug 31, 2013

People living with HIV get a lot of solace from their companion animals. And on September 7-8, Boston AIDS Ride Phinney's Friends aim to make sure they can keep these pups when times get tough.

"We do everything in our power to make sure animals and their beloved owners can stay together," reads their website. "We educate pet owners, take their animals to the vet, help pay vet bills, foster pets when owners are hospitalized, walk dogs and care for cats on a regular basis."

Now, supporters of Phinney's Friends are coming together for Phinney's Ride, a two-day, 150-mile group bike ride from Stow, Mass. To Fitzwilliam, NH, and then back to Stow. With generous donations from friends and family, they hope to raise money to keep the program going.

Of the registered riders, Kenneth Levine has currently raised the most, netting $1,170 or his $1,700 goal. He is leading the charge, and hopes the other riders garner a similar level of support.

"Phinney’s Ride is an event that I can’t say no to, as it joins two of my favorite causes - pets and people with HIV or other chronic illnesses," wrote Levine on his webpage. "And apart from the ride and the presentation by the dedicated board of Phinney’s, I am looking forward to the bananagrams game on Saturday night!"

Phinney’s Friends helps low-income people in the Boston area keep their pets, by helping pay vet bills, caring for them while their owners are hospitalized, or giving advice about pet behavior and care. They distribute pet food and supplies to cats and dogs whose owners are going through financial hardships. The clients of Phinney’s Friends are those who live with a chronic illness or disability such as HIV.

On a monthly basis, they distribute to the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusets, a non-profit that supports people living with HIV/AIDS, Hep C and other STDs. They started their AIDS Action Program in 2012 with Bill Phinney in mind. Phinney’s Friends was named for Phinney, a devoted animal lover who served as a Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) law enforcement officer for 26 years.

"This program continues to gain steam at every delivery, as we increase the number of AIDS Actions clients we help," they write on their website.

Phinney’s caring and compassion made a difference for thousands of animals during his years of service. He suffered greatly when he had to surrender some of his pets when AIDS debilitated his health. When Phinney died in 1995, his love of animals inspired MSPCA to create a program called Phinney’s Friends, which helped people with HIV/AIDS and elderly in the greater Boston area by providing food, health care and other services to their pets at no cost to the owners.

"We foster animals, and help pay for boarding or veterinary treatment whenever a much-loved pet is at risk of being euthanized or surrendered," said the organization. "This way, we avoid pet shelter overpopulation and heartache."

Although the economic downturn made MSPCA shut down the program on April 30, 2009, the next day, Phinney’s Friends was born as a nonprofit organization run by a group of volunteers. The crew has only raised 10 percent of their $20,000 goal for the ride; additional donations are greatly needed.

The organization does not receive any government funding, and exists only thanks to the generosity of private donors, volunteers and businesses.

To donate to Phinney’s Friends, visit

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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