Why do you participate in the Ride?
My mom and I started Team Kenni in 2016, shortly after my dad (Kenni Graber) was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We wanted to show him that we were his cheerleaders, and just to do something positive during what was otherwise the most difficult, negative situation imaginable. Even though my father was put into Hospice care before Ride Day, he was determined to survive until after the Ride, and to see us all in our jerseys. Since then, Team Kenni has grown in size and in impact. We have more riders, raise more funds, and ride longer distances. The event remains a way to honor my dad and celebrate his life… but it has become so much more than that to us. Roswell Park has become an important community that we passionately identify with and are uplifted by. The Ride, over the years, has been a way for us to process our grief, and to mark our ability to overcome the tragedy of my father’s death.
What does leading a team mean to you?
I once read somewhere that when a person suffers from cancer, everyone who loves that person suffers, too. I hope that I will never personally experience what my father did – I will never intimately know his suffering. However, being the primary caretaker of a terminally ill person is a suffering, in and of itself. The Ride for Roswell has become so important to my family and I for so many reasons. First of all, it allows us a positive space to celebrate my dad’s life. Secondly, it allows us to give back in a meaningful way. But – perhaps most importantly – it allows us to celebrate ourselves, and the fact that we made it through an extremely traumatic event, but came out better people who are more passionately invested in our community. When considering all of this, I am so humbled by my amazing friends and family members who sign up, year after year, to support my mother and I in this experience.
What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?
I always have two favorite parts about Ride Weekend: The Celebration of Hope and our personal Team Kenni After Party. The Celebration of Hope really allows riders to see the impact that they’re making. It humanizes the fundraising process and shows that real people – in our own backyard – are seeing the immediate benefit of what we’re working for. Our After Party, on the other hand, honors our riders and donors. It allows us to express gratitude for them. We’re not only thankful that they are donating their time and money to a cause we care about – we’re also thankful that they’re showing up to emotionally support us in a way that has helped us heal and move on.