A Virtual Rider Experience

Valerie Kaufman and her sister Stephanie have been riding in The Ride For Roswell for five years. Val first joined The Ride in 2013 because of her mother Natalie’s ovarian cancer diagnosis. The 45-mile route went right by her mother’s house, so it was a “perfect spot to ride by her with our family and friends around,” Val said. Unfortunately, Natalie lost her battle with ovarian cancer. Her daughters continue to ride in The Ride For Roswell in her memory. Over the last few years, Val and Steph have joined forces as co-captains, leading teams of 5 or 6 people.

In 2016, their youngest sister graduated from high school on the morning of The Ride so they were unable to physically participate. However, that did not stop them. They decided to register as virtual riders. With a little creative thinking and a lot of teamwork, Val and Steph made their year as virtual riders extra special. They created a route that included a number of locations that their mom loved.

Natalie’s Route

  1. D’Youville College – where their mom went to college.
  2. 31 Club – a favorite restaurant and happy hour spot. Natalie loved to try new places.
  3. Shea’s Performing Arts Center – where she loved to attend shows and was a season ticket holder.
  4. Buffalo General – where Natalie flourished in her nursing career. She ended her career as the manager of patient flow after more than 20 years working with cardiac patients.
  5. Roswell – couldn’t skip this!
  6. Spot Coffee on Hertel – coffee décor encompassed the Kaufman family kitchen growing up.  A cup of coffee with a friend was one of their mom’s favorite things to do.
  7. 432 Rosedale – the house Val and Steph grew up in.
  8. Boulevard Mall – to embrace Natalie’s love of shopping.

The girls stopped to take a photo at every location along the route and posted them on social media with the hashtag #milesformom. They even got a little taste of The Ride.

“The best part was when we got back to my house after our ride, my sister’s friend had left us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and orange slices like The Ride rest stops,” Val said.  “It was a really nice touch.”

By becoming virtual riders, Val and Steph were still able to join in the fight against cancer but could participate in their own time.

Becoming a virtual rider allows you to participate in The Ride For Roswell if you can’t be there on June 23. You could put together a special route like Val and Steph, or simply fundraise for cures. Every donation matters in the fight against cancer.

To learn more about becoming a virtual rider, visit this page. If you’re ready to commit, register here and select the virtual rider option.

Ride Donations Help Patients Get Critical HLA Testing

Anne Marie Comaratta knows Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and The Ride For Roswell very well. Maybe too well.
Her husband, Ross, participated in The Ride For Roswell for nine years. Then came the terrible day when he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. This long-time rider became a Roswell Park patient — and needed a bone marrow transplant (BMT). But first, he had to undergo HLA testing.

HLA testing determines whether a potential donor is compatible by checking a protein found on most cells in the human body. However, this testing is very expensive, and insurance won’t always cover it. Because of this, The Comarattas had to do a lot of this testing out of pocket. Luckily, between their insurance and savings, they were able to cover it. They finally found a donor in Germany with the help of an organization called Be the Match.

“We were responsible for not only the initial search process, but all of the costs related to physicals and information sessions for our German donor,” Anne Marie said.

It became clear to her that most families wouldn’t have the same options.

The Impact of Ross

But now, a portion of community donations to Roswell Park, including those to The Ride, are dedicated to covering the cost of HLA testing for those whose insurance will not cover it.

“If a family like ours, with top-notch insurance and solid financial means, feels stress from the costs associated with HLA testing, how does it affect families in a tenuous financial spot?” Anne Marie said. “The thought of families having to take out loans to cover HLA testing costs breaks my heart.”
Sadly, in 2016 Ross lost his battle. But Anne Marie, their two children and a team of devoted family and friends continue to ride in Ross’ memory for The Ride for Roswell. Their team name is, appropriately, Team RossWell.

Anne Marie is so happy that Roswell Park is now providing this extra support to families who need it. It will always be important to her.

“My husband would be so happy and proud to know that there is this effort,” she said. “Covering HLA testing for these families will be game-changing and, God willing, life-changing.”

How Your Fundraising is Fighting Brain Cancer

Brain cancer can be incredibly difficult to treat, which is why finding new therapeutic approaches is critical to saving lives.

New research conducted by Drs. Robert Fenstermaker and Michael Cieselski at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center shows that one of the most commonly occurring molecules in cancer cells may be an attractive target for a broad range of immunotherapy approaches – therapies that target the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Because of this study, which was funded in part by donations to Roswell Park, the team has discovered that antibodies that target a form of survivin — a protein present in many cancers — have distinct therapeutic potential.

“We’ve dedicated more than a decade to studying survivin as a target for cancer immunotherapy. This work has opened up a variety of new options for using different forms of immunotherapy for hard-to-treat cancers,” says Dr. Fenstermaker.

Learn more about this study in Roswell Park’s recent news release.

Want to learn more about how donations to The Ride fuel research and patient care at Roswell Park? Check out this blog.