Route Guides – They Guide So We Can Ride

This blog was written by Thomas Johnston, Special Events Operations Manager, in conjunction with the February volunteer newsletter. 

Route guides make a big difference at the Ride for Roswell. Since that very first Ride in 1996, route guides have been helping direct and assist cyclists along all of the routes in 14 communities, 3 counties, and 2 countries!

Route guides volunteer for one or more four hour shifts, serving at more than 300 critical intersections. They arrive equipped with safety vest, flag, maps, and some basic first aid supplies. As cyclists approach, route guides wave them in the correct direction, and will halt bicycle traffic as needed. Sometimes they work with police at the same corner, sometimes they are on their own. Route guides also offer a friendly face and some much-needed directions for cyclists who may feel that they are off course. In emergencies, route guides will call Ride HQ for help, and they call 911 for immediate emergencies. Route guides are also an extra sets of eyes, ears, and hands on the routes. Grateful cyclists will tell you that the route guide corps makes the Ride stand out as a premier cycling event.

The Ride is now seeking route guides for several intersections in Amherst, Clarence, Akron, Newstead, Buffalo, the Tonawanda’s, and even in Canada.

Give us a call at 716-843-7433 to learn more.

-Thomas Johnston, Special Events Operations Manager

6 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Volunteer Experience

This blog post was written by Jill Citron, Guest Services Coordinator, in conjunction with the February volunteer newsletter. 

As a Ride for Roswell Volunteer, your time and effort help create a great experience for our riders and guests. You are absolutely essential for a great Ride Day!

But did you know there are ways to improve your own volunteer experience? Here’s how. 

Be Open-Minded About Shifts

As nice as it is to sleep in on the weekend, some of the Ride’s most active and rewarding volunteer opportunities happen early! This means that late-morning volunteers can sometimes be disappointed that there isn’t more to see and do. The best way to be part of the Ride during prime time is to consider an early morning assignment.

Understand Your Position

Take the time to really understand the position you are signing up for. Do you mind standing for long periods? Being out in the sun or rain? Do you have physical limitations, like difficulty walking, a need to be sitting down or can’t lift heavy boxes? Carefully check the details of your preferred assignment and make sure you are able to fully participate. If not, look for an assignment that better suits your abilities. Need help? Contact Dawn Hu, Volunteer Coordinator, at 716-845-1055 or Doug Citron at 716-570-4900 for assistance.

Stay For A While

Once you’ve completed your assignment, your experience doesn’t have to end just yet. There is so much to see and do during Ride Weekend. Check out the moving ceremonies at the Start Line, or Join the crowd at the Finish Line and cheer our riders’ home! You can also enjoy a delicious lunch, vote for the best Team T-shirt, or visit friends in their tents. 

Be Sociable

During Ride Day, make an effort to meet new people and listen to their stories. You’ll be amazed at all the incredible people who participate in this event every single year. 

Share Your Thoughts

When the Ride is over, we want to know your thoughts! What worked? What didn’t? What ideas do you have for making things better?

Your input is much appreciated and will help future Ride volunteers have the best possible experience.

Come On Back

As soon as Volunteer registration opens in 2021, sign up again for your favorite position and bring your family and friends, too!

-Jill Citron, Guest Services Coordinator at the Ride and Quality Assurance Supervisor at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

The First Ride for Roswell

This blog post was written by Mitch Flynn, Founder of the Ride for Roswell, in conjunction with the February volunteer newsletter. 

Every year of the Ride has had a moment, person or image that captured the feeling of the day for me. On June 29, 1996, that was an 11-year-old kid named Katy DiGirolamo.

About two weeks before that first Ride in 1996, someone at Roswell told me she’d heard about a pediatric patient who was raising a lot of money. All I knew about her was her name, Katy Di-Gi-something, and that she was riding the 9-mile route. All six or so of us on the Steering Committee” (it wasn’t called anything back then – we just showed up and ate pizza and guessed at what we needed to do) were still in the mode of “ya’ think anybody’s gonna’ show up for this thing?” So, hearing that a Roswell patient was not only riding but also raising money gave us a little buzz. It felt like lottery advertising: “Hey, you never know.”

That First Ride

I rode the 33-mile route that year and took my camera. Back then, the routes converged on Audubon, so I detoured through Walton Woods hoping to get a glimpse of this fabulous little fundraiser. It was already late in the morning and I only saw a few other bikers on this last stretch of the route, so I was afraid I’d missed her. But when I exited back out on to Audubon, I caught sight of a very big guy in a sweat-soaked T-shirt riding behind a very skinny little girl in an impossible-to-miss, red-white-and-blue sequined outfit (her mother had made it for her especially for The Ride). She was riding a tricycle and her bike basket was covered with cutout paper hearts, which were covered with the names of her supporters. This kid had style.

“Are you the DiGirolamos?” I asked. I think they were a bit surprised to have a “serious biker” come out of nowhere and know who they were.

I asked if they minded if I took some pictures of them coming into Baird Point.

“No problem,” Dad Jim said.

So I shot the last mile or so of their ride, watching in amazement as this big guy rode up behind his bald and tiny daughter, extended his leg, and launched her trike forward. She actually said “wheeee” each time and was clearly having a ball while her dad was soldiering on. He must have pushed her that way for most of the 9 miles – an act of blood, sweat, and tears.

Katy’s mom, Beth, was anxiously waiting on Frontier just before the turn on to St. Rita’s, a little American flag in her hand, which matched her daughter’s outfit. Seeing her there was like sounding the bell lap – before I knew it, the two of them were around the corner and picking up speed before veering off across the lawn towards the registration / lunch tent. Jim got off his bike and just about collapsed on to the grass – give that man a massage! (I’m not 100% sure but I think we may have had a single very busy masseuse at Baird Point that year.)

Afterwards, I took more photographs of Katy meeting former Sabre Rob Ray and Channel 4’s Jacquie Walker (one of that year’s honorary chairs) and being presented with a Sabers jersey as The Ride’s top fundraiser. She was our first Extra Mile Club member before there was even an Extra Mile Club! If you look at the images closely, you’ll see more than a few people dabbing at the corners of their eyes. One of those heart-in-your throat moments I know we all experience on the last Saturday in June.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I went out to their home in Angola with a tape recorder and the pictures from Ride Day. We looked at the shots together and I asked them if they remembered how they felt at the time. When the picture of Katy being honored for her fundraising came up, Jim said, “Never will there be a prouder moment in my life than that.”

What came out of that chance encounter, those pictures and that visit was a slide show (some of you may remember those, many will not) that got converted to a video and shown at All Star Night that year – first proof that The Ride was for real. (If you’re interested, you can watch it on YouTube here

-Mitch Flynn, Founder of the Ride