Gratitude in action: Kathy Caruso shares the story of hope behind Team ‘Otterly’ Phil

Gratitude in action: Kathy Caruso shares the story of hope behind Team ‘Otterly’ Phil.

Team Otterly Phil

Time means different things to different people. For Kathy Caruso of Humphrey, N.Y., time is a gift.

In life, the unexpected can happen; the challenges that remind us we don’t have control over how much time we get. But, it’s how we choose to spend that time, that makes the journey real, authentic and human.

As Kathy remembers her late husband Phil Stock, you can tell by her contagious smile, that the couple made every second count, even when their time was cut short.

“Cancer was with us all of our married life, but it never stopped us from living and loving and doing the things that we always wanted to do,” Kathy explained.

The beginning.

In 2003, Kathy and Phil became husband and wife.

“We just got married and we had all the hope and the

However, four months into their new chapter, Phil was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer, one of the fastest growing and most aggressive cancers. The two had to pivot from planning for the future, to navigating a life-altering disease.

“It was devastating because it was a grim diagnosis. He just had the wind knocked out of his sails. He fainted in the office.”

Once they had the results, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center had a plan for Phil to begin treatment for the following Monday.

Phil and Kathy

“That’s how quick it was,” Kathy emphasized.

Phil underwent enhanced radiation and chemotherapy and, while intense, Kathy praised the precision of the treatment.

“It was the therapy he needed. It was the treatment he needed. It was guided by the hands of the oncologist, the radiologist. I can’t say enough about those people. They saved his life.”

Three years after that initial diagnosis, Phil was recovering – both in health and spirit, and he was incredibly grateful.

Kathy added, “It was a miracle delivered through Roswell.”

Getting involved.

Kathy describes their role in Ride for Roswell as “gratitude in action.”

After Phil’s clean bill of health, in 2007 he bought a bike and decided to get involved. For Kathy and Phil, fundraising and riding in Ride for Roswell was their way of giving back.

“My gosh, that man rode that bike till the end of days and always in Ride for Roswell. That was his go-to.”

But in 2010, the couple got hit with another shock. Phil’s second cancer diagnosis. This time, it was stage IV colon cancer.

Team Otterly Phil

The last lap.

With Phil’s new diagnosis, Kathy said, once again, the staff at Roswell Park got right into action. It wasn’t until five years later that Phil had exhausted all treatment options, and turned to palliative care.

“Through palliative care, we got two more years, and that was a gift of time to do things we had wanted to do, to finish things up that we hadn’t done.”

Kathy explained the team at Roswell Park also helped Phil to say goodbye to friends and family and to hope in a different way. She added, “The doctors and the nurses were incredible and just so special.”

The summer leading up to his death, he visited with people in a gazebo he had previously built in their backyard. Even during the hardest times, his spirit and zest for life never faded.

“He was so grateful for every minute, for every day, for every year, for every time we walked out of Roswell Park and we got the go to live. Man, he just embraced it all,” said Kathy. “We had 15 years together and every minute of it is a gift.”

Kathy remembered one of the last conversations she had with her husband, in which he expressed he wished they had their own team at Ride for Roswell. Imagine the impact they could’ve made!

He died just days before the Ride in 2017, but in his honor, Kathy started a team the next year. 

Team ‘Otterly’ Phil.

On the team page description, Kathy explained the meaning behind the name Team ‘Otterly’ Phil. She wrote in part:

“Phil and I once pondered what animal we would like to be. He chose the otter. He chose well. Otters are engaging creatures overflowing with positive energy. Intelligent and bright, they are also popular, eminently lovable and love the water! Otters mix easily with a wide range of animal personalities. Doesn’t that describe him to a tee?”

While the team started because of Phil, it has grown into something much bigger. After all, even during his life, Phil aimed to put others in the spotlight. Kathy believes that’s what made him such a wonderful teacher and human being.

“We ride under his name, because it’s what he wanted, but we ride for so many others,” said Kathy.

Team Otterly Phil Logo

Making an impact.

Each of us has the power to make a difference, whether you ride, donate, volunteer or help spread the word. Kathy said her team’s philosophy is, “A penny or a pound, it’s all forward motion.”

When asked to describe Ride Weekend, Kathy said the experience, above all else, is hopeful.

Hopeful to end cancer. Hopeful for time.

“I know that there are many, many people in the world who are struggling with what he went through and I just pray to God that they have some part of the spirit that Phil had, and if I could do anything to help that go forward, that’s what I’d like to do. That’s why we ride.”

Finding the route for you

Riders crossing the finish line at Ride for Roswell

Finding the route for you.

So, you want to participate in Ride for Roswell, but aren’t sure which route to choose. No problem!

The mission to end cancer inspires people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities – and we want to make sure anyone who wants to ride, has an opportunity to.

With nine routes to choose from ranging from five to 100 miles, there is a perfect Ride Day route for everyone! Whether you’re an endurance cyclist or a casual rider, you can ride at your own pace.

All the routes, with the exception of Canada, start and end at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. Additionally, participants ages 1-17 must ride with riders over 18 years old.

Here’s a brief description of each route to help you select the best option for you.

5-mile River Route:

This recreational loop on the UB and Amherst bike paths runs along Ellicott Creek and through the woods, with no car traffic to worry about. There’s a rest stop at the halfway point to relax and regroup. This is great for casual riders but we don’t recommend children with training wheels take on this route. The start times are 10 a.m. and 10:20 a.m. View the route map here.

10-mile River Route:

Journey through paved roads, bike paths and parks. Enjoy the cool breeze off the river as you ride from UB to Ellicott Creek. On this route, there is one rest stop. The start times are 9 a.m., 9:20 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. View the route map here.

20-mile River Route:

Follow Ellicott Creek and the Niagara River to beautiful Niawanda Park, then back through the City of Tonawanda. You’ll see the Niagara River at one of its widest points while you ride flat roads and bike paths on the bed of the original Erie Canal. There are two rest stops on this route. The start times are 8 a.m., 8:20 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. View the route map here.


30-mile River Route:

Ride along roads and bike paths beside Ellicott Creek and the Niagara River through Niawanda Park and Isle View Park. Return on the Two Mile Creek bike path through the City and Town of Tonawanda, then through Ellicott Creek Park back to UB North. There are three rest stops on this route. The start times are 7:20 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. View the route map here.


Rider at Ride for Roswell
Rider at Ride for Roswell
Rider at Ride for Roswell
adam gives a thumbs up and smiles as he rides his bike

34-mile Country Route:

On this route you will tour through historic Clarence Center and the farmlands of Newstead before heading back to UB North along tree-canopied roads in rural Erie County. There are four rest stops. The start time is 7 a.m. View the route map here.

44-mile Canada Route:

The Canada Route is back for the first time since 2019! Unlike the other routes, this one starts at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and finishes at UB. Riders will travel along the Niagara Parkway with special lanes across both the Peace Bridge and the Rainbow International Bridge. Enjoy a river view from start to finish. There are four rest stops. The start times are 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. View the route map here.


45-mile Country Route:

In this adventure, you’ll ride through Clarence, Newstead, and Akron for a tour of the rolling hills of the beautiful Western New York countryside. There are five rest stops. The start time is 6:40 a.m. View the route map here.

65-mile Country Route:

You’ll travel all the way out to Akron and the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and back again. The rolling hills of the Western New York countryside make this a great route for any cycling enthusiast. There are six rest stops. The start time is 6:20 a.m. View the route map here.

100-mile Country Route:

Go for the extra miles and hills with this 100-mile Country Route! You’ll head east through the rolling hills and farmlands of Genesee County in a scenic loop toward Batavia. Rejoin the other country routes at Akron and enjoy the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. To participate in this ride, you must be able to complete 100 miles by 2:30 p.m. There are seven rest stops. The start time is 6 a.m. View the route map here

Riders smiling at Ride for Roswell
A sign on the back of a bike reading "More miles for Moe"

Ride Your Own Way.

If you’re unable to participate in Ride Day but still want to be a part of the movement – here is your solution! Ride Your Own Way throughout the summer.

Through Ride Your Own Way, you are in control of your Ride experience. You choose the date, distance, route and location. With this option, your Ride can even be on a stationary bike if that’s what you prefer!

Click here to learn more about how to get started and even check out some suggested places to Ride.

No matter how you Ride, you are helping us in our mission to end cancer.