Crypto, charity and cycling. It’s an unlikely triad, but two fitness enthusiasts-turned-crypto philanthropists believe that, taken in combination, the three can drive positive change.
Taking a cross-country cycling trip around the U.S., Tour de Crypto riders Jason Berlin and Jovel Velasquez want to raise $1 million in cryptocurrencies and USD for the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC), a non-profit organization with the mandate to “[end] domestic and sexual violence for all.” Through its advocacy, counselling, education, shelters and support services, HAWC works to help survivors build safe and healthy lives.
If Berlin and Velasquez meet their goal, the money will be enough to fund half a year of services to HAWC’s 120-bed secure shelter. To ensure transparency, donors can verify that the wallet addresses listed on Tour de Crypto’s website and HAWC’s own are the same, and “100% of the donations will go directly to HAWC via wallets maintained and controlled by HAWC,” Tour de Crypto’s donation page states.
The tour will kick off on Friday, September 14, 2018, in the Hamptons, New York, ending on Friday, November 9, 2018, in Huntington Beach, California, and the entire trip will also be recorded with videographers and an audio crew along the way. Along the route, Berlin and Velasquez will be stopping in Houston to visit the headquarters of HAWC.
At the time of publication, the project is accepting donations in bitcoin, ether, litecoin, monero, digibyte, reddcoin, electra, paccoin and phore. The Electra community was the first to sign up, according to Blake Rizzo, head of charity affairs for Tour de Crypto. At last count, he said that over 7 million electra (~$4,340) had been donated to HAWC.
Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Rizzo explained that he was approached by Berlin with the idea of the tour. Rizzo said that Berlin came up with the concept, a play on the Tour de France, as a way to do something that raises awareness for cryptocurrency donations to charity.
“He also had a personal goal to ride a bike across the United States, so he decided to combine the two,” Rizzo added.
With a background in law as a commercial litigation attorney, Berlin originally approached Rizzo to draft documents for the tour. However, the more Rizzo got involved, the more opportunity he saw, so he took on a more active role to help increase awareness of the riders’ mission and how they hope to accomplish it.
When Berlin began speaking to Rizzo about potential charities, Rizzo immediately suggested HAWC, which has a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. It wasn’t long before Berlin decided to make the sexual assault survivor center the main focus on the first tour, which is expected to be the first of many.
“The goal is to do this every year and not only have a charity that is the main focus, but also ask other communities and coins to get involved and do one of two things,” said Rizzo. “They can have me set up HAWC with their particular wallet so their community can donate or [they can] go out and get another charitable organization accept their coin, so we can add them to the list and promote different charities along the way.”
In a way, the first tour will be a trial run to see how crypto communities can come together to benefit charitable organizations.
Beyond raising money for HAWC, the tour will be a challenge for its two riders. According to Rizzo, Berlin and Velasquez are not your typical Lycra-clad cyclists, but that’s not to say they haven’t put the work in prior to the start of the trip. During the interview, Rizzo told me that the pair had just completed a 130-mile training trip, and the two are riding each day to condition themselves and prep their legs for the roughly 4,000 mile journey.
When they’re not riding, Berlin is talking to various exchanges and coin operators who are interested in getting involved on the tour, either as sponsors or participating coins. So far, Ronnie Moas, founder of Standpoint Research and World Crypto Con, is a leading sponsor. World Crypto Con’s website states that it will donate 5 percent of all ticket sales to HAWC.
Moas was quick to join the effort. When raising awareness for Tour de Crypto, Rizzo came across a tweet from Moas regarding World Crypto Con, so he reached out to talk to him about the tour’s charitable mission.
“Within minutes he responded,” added Rizzo. “He had checked out our Twitter page and our mission and basically said ‘I’m in, call me or send me your number,’ and just like that I was on the phone with him for an hour and a half going through everything. He agreed right there to be our lead sponsor.”
Bitcoin bull Moas is a familiar face within the crypto space, well known for his own forays into crypto philanthropy. One of his projects, the five-star rated charity Food for the Poor, has raised more than $400,000 to date. Between his experience and the advisory role he can play for the tour, Rizzo believes he makes a prime addition to the Tour de Crypto team.
Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Moas said that, when he heard about the cause, it struck a nerve with him because he had thought about walking from New York to California to raise money for charity a few years ago.
“I have visited more than 70 countries around the world and nearly 40 of the 50 states in this country, so I have seen a lot of people living in horrible conditions during my travels around,” he said. “I was moved by this, and it has almost become an obsession of mine to help people that will never live one day of their lives the way you and I live every day of our lives.”
During the charity ride, the riders will aim to cover around 100 miles a day, in addition to working on videos to upload to their social media. Even though the first charity ride will take place in a matter of days, Rizzo explained that they are already looking forward to additional tours. They’ve already had interested parties reach out asking if they will do another event overseas.
“We really want to make this an annual event and even incorporate cycle races, so we are certainly open to all options and possibilities,” said Rizzo.
At the moment, though, the tour’s main goal is to continue spreading the word on crypto’s place at the charitable table.
“If a lot of people find out about what Jason and Jovel are doing, they may be able to move the needle,” added Moas.