Raising money to support a charitable cause wasn’t enough. I had to do more. So I thought: Why not develop a mobile app to support fundraising efforts?

I would not be resorting to hyperbole to say that I hate cycling. I would much rather run any day.

Regardless, this year I decided to participate in The SMART Ride (Southernmost AIDS/HIV Ride), a 165-mile, 2-day bike ride from Miami to Key West benefiting HIV/AIDS programs throughout Florida.

I also entered last year, but broke my arm four weeks before the ride so I couldn’t participate even though my partner did. As I followed along, I found myself thinking: Wouldn’t it be great for riders to have a map that featured the location of rest and water stops?

Developing a Mobile App for Charity

So, we created a SMART Ride mobile app to support team members during this year’s ride. 

I also thought it would be useful to track donations – not only our own, but fundraising efforts by fellow team members. I figured it would help motivate everybody to raise more money! Maybe it did (more on that below).

This year, donations totaled $1.046 million – 100% of which goes to benefiting charities. I couldn’t be prouder of my team, the Key West Mile Markers, for raising $46,000, and my colleagues at Centric Miami for kindly donating to sponsor our team jerseys.


How the Mobile App Was Developed

Creating the mobile app was easy. I created the app for iPhone, but since I have limited Android experience, I asked my Miami colleague, Chris Martinez, if he would be able to write the Android version. He kindly agreed.

I worked with the company that maintains The SMART Ride’s website and had them create REST APIs to the website login, as well as the ability to fetch team member data.

We needed a way to save rider locations in real-time, so we decided to use a free, third-party backend. The first two backends we tried went out of business, so we settled on Google’s Firebase.

Firebase is essentially a local in-app database to which you write JSON dictionaries (end read them). It handles synchronization to the cloud, which frees you from the need to access an end-point.

After a beta testing period, we got the apps into the App Store and Google Play.

Riders Embrace the Mobile App

Ride organizers were extremely supportive of the app and offered to promote it during ride registration. Not only was it mentioned in the safety video and at the start of the ride, but they also created a banner with the details.


That must have helped because more than 100 riders installed the app on Android devices and about 390 on Apple. That’s pretty good, considering there were only 450 riders.

According a recent survey completed by participants, those who responded found the app useful for tracking donations prior to the event and keeping up with team members during the ride. 

I can relate. I know it helped me. It encouraged me to raise more money – and get to the end. Perhaps it was knowing when those rest stops were coming up?

All kidding aside, it turned out to be a great experience – one that has even softened my dislike of cycling. It was very well organized and there were so many volunteers helping us along the way. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Looks like I might be going back next year! Until then…

Mobile App

If you want to learn more about how we created the app, check this out:


Go Further:

Graham SavageGraham is a Mobile Developer in Miami with 31 years in software development. He has spent the past 9 years working exclusively with iOS, and dabbling in Android and Xamarin. Graham holds a Bachelors in Electronics Engineering. Between 2000 and 2006, he took a break that including adventures in travel, photography, design, greeting card sales, and landscaping. 

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