Rider Profile: Dr. Kathleen O’Leary

Rider Profile: Dr. Kathleen O’Leary

Dr. Kathleen O’Leary has many accomplishments to her name — even rising through the ranks over her nearly 30-year career at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. But, in June 2023, she achieved a different kind of goal — one that felt almost impossible a few months prior due to a life-altering stroke. With the support of her husband Mike Collins, Dr. O’Leary crossed the finish line at Ride for Roswell. Together, they rode 34 miles.

Connection to Roswell Park

Dr. O’Leary began her career at Roswell Park back in 1992. She worked her way up to being the Chief of Surgical Anesthesia in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.

“I loved every minute of it,” she explained.

She also got involved outside of the clinical setting by participating in Ride for Roswell.

“I love cycling and I love the message that the Ride gave, that it was such a community event, and it was such a celebration of survivors and hope, so that was very appealing to me.”

However, both her career at Roswell Park and her passion for cycling would be put on pause sooner than planned.

Dr. O'Leary at Ride for Roswell

Road to recovery

“In 2019, I had a stroke that resulted in my becoming paralyzed on the left side of my body, and because of that, I had to stop my work as an anesthesiologist. Honestly, I thought I would never get back on a bike again and be able to cycle.”

But Dr. O’Leary pushed every day to relearn, rebuild and adapt.

“Part of what I’ve been going through is trying to regain some normalcy in my life.”

And in the pursuit of normalcy, Dr. O’Leary and her husband purchased a tandem bike in October 2022.

“The bike is totally modified on the left side to hold my foot on the pedal and keep my leg in position. All the steering and the majority of the work is done by my husband.”

As husband and wife, they decided their goal would be to ride in Ride for Roswell. They aimed high — and registered for the 34-mile route.

Dr. O'Leary at Pathways Park

Fundraising

While Dr. O’Leary had participated in Ride for Roswell many times, this was the first year she and her husband made fundraising a top priority. They utilized the Ride for Roswell app and shared their story on social media.

“Every person riding in the Ride has so many stories that are cancer related. Mine is cancer related by virtue of my job and the wonderful patients I’ve cared for who inspire me. For me, telling the story about my stroke and my determination to get back on the road, I think that really hit home for a lot of people.”

Dr. O’Leary says the response was filled with support and encouragement. They received donations even from people who they had never met.

“I set a goal of $1,500. I couldn’t really imagine that I would achieve that. In the end, it was over $7,600.”

Ride Weekend

That fundraising amount made them members of the Extra Mile Club, meaning they were invited to be a part of the Peloton. Alongside 175 other riders, Dr. O’Leary and her husband traveled on their tandem bike through the pouring rain from Roswell Park’s campus all the way to the University at Buffalo, where Ride for Roswell is held.

“Working at Roswell Park, I had seen the Peloton take off every year. It’s such an emotional event. When the riders all hold their cards up so that patients can see it, it’s absolutely tear-jerking. So, to be a part of that was very special this year.”

When Ride Day finally arrived, they were prepared to take on their 34-mile trek — a goal they had been working toward for months. Their photos from the finish line tell a story of teamwork and triumph in the face of adversity.

“It was just wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful just to feel that sense of accomplishment.”

Dr. O’Leary’s message

Already, Dr. O’Leary is planning to return to the Ride in 2024. Her message to others who are considering getting involved:

“Everybody’s looking for the cure to cancer. And the cure doesn’t come without money for research. You don’t have to be a pro cyclist to be in the Ride. There is a distance for everybody.”

Dr. Kathleen O'Leary and her husband Mike Collins at Ride for Roswell.

For now, Dr. O’Leary says she’s constantly working hard to get stronger and regain function in her left arm, but if her experience with Ride for Roswell has taught her anything, it’s that she won’t let her stroke get the best of her. With her husband and family by her side, the milestones of her recovery are becoming more within reach, one pedal at a time.

Get the new MyRFR Fundraising App

Get the new MyRFR Fundraising App

My RFR app

Enhance your fundraising with the new Ride for Roswell app, MyRFR.

When you Ride for Roswell, you’re committing to raising funds for critical cancer research and patient care programs at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Your efforts can not only change lives today but also shape the future of cancer care. Learn more about your impact.

Let the MyRFR app supercharge your fundraising and get you ready for the most impactful summer tradition.

Here are some of the great things you can do with the app!

  • Personalize your fundraiser and track your fundraising progress.
  • Accept in-person check donations with state-of-the-art scanning technology and bank-grade security features.
  • Receive a personalized QR code to share your fundraising page with friends and family.
Mobile deposit on the Ride for Roswell fundraising app
  • Connect the app to your activity tracker (ex. Fitbit and Apple Watch).
  • Send emails or SMS messages to your contacts asking for support and donations.
  • Integrate with your Ride for Roswell fundraising dashboard and Facebook fundraiser.
  • Share your page on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • And much more!
My RFR fundraising app

How to get started.

The MyRFR app is free to download in the App Store or Google Play. Search for “My RFR” wherever you download apps.

Use the username and password that you set up to log into your Fundraising Dashboard. After your first login, you can also use facial recognition to get into your account.

If you have any questions about the fundraising app, please contact us!

Email: RideforRoswell@RoswellPark.org  

Phone: 716-843-7433

For more fundraising tips, check out our tools here.

The Story Behind Team AnnaLynn

The Story Behind Team AnnaLynn

Team AnnaLynn has been a staple of the Ride Community since it was formed in 2010. Their story is one of resilience and hope and the power of community. 14 years later, we’re taking a look back at how this team got started, and what’s next for the woman who inspired its creation.

Meet AnnaLynn Williams, Ph.D.

When you ask AnnaLynn Williams about Ride for Roswell, her passion is contagious. Her smile as she describes the energy of Ride Weekend is a reminder of why we come together each summer to fight for cancer cures.

The mission is personal for AnnaLynn. In 2008, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The news came shortly after she finished her undergraduate degree and had just started her master’s degree in epidemiology. She had moved back home to Buffalo, and Roswell Park was the natural choice as to where she would seek care. Immediately, her life changed.

“I was admitted the same day I was diagnosed,” said AnnaLynn. “I went through about a month of inpatient treatment where I was very lucky to achieve remission. Then we did about a year and a half of outpatient treatments before I unfortunately relapsed.”

That’s when she knew she would need a bone marrow transplant.

“I was very lucky. I had a donor in the registry. Her name is Jesse. She’s my guardian angel.”

She received her transplant in March of 2010.

“I’ll be forever grateful to Roswell Park and the physicians and nurses and everyone there who took such amazing care of me.”

That same year, she was even able to be a part of the Ride.

AnnaLynn Williams at Niagara Falls for Ride for Roswell.
AnnaLynn's 100-day party

AnnaLynn’s First Ride

The summer after AnnaLynn’s transplant, her family wanted to get involved and give back. They signed up for Ride for Roswell and formed a team. At the time, AnnaLynn wasn’t sure if she would be able ride, but, eventually, her doctors gave her the okay — so long as she took necessary precautions like wearing a mask.

“I was very, very weak though. So, I rode my bike for about a mile and then they put me in a little tow-behind trailer and my brother-in-law towed me the rest of the way. It was such an amazing day and it was so nice for my family to be there and be around all those people and see the positive energy and the hope.”

That incredible Ride Day feeling has kept her coming back each year, and growing Team AnnaLynn along the way.

“It’s so moving and inspiring. You walk in and you realize this is so much bigger than me. We’re all fighting for the same thing.”

AnnaLynn's parents at Ride for Roswell.
Group photo of Team AnnaLynn.

The Evolution of Team AnnaLynn

AnnaLynn’s mother Debbie is co-captain of the team, and AnnaLynn says in many ways Debbie leads the charge on organizing and fundraising.

“My mom and I are really close. My mom was a nurse for 35 years, so I think when I got sick, her instincts just took over and she jumped in. I was so thankful and lucky to have her as this kind of medical liaison and advocate,” said AnnaLynn. “Over time, with the shift from me needing less of her medical advocation, she’s turned her attention to research and patient-care advocation. She’s taken all of that energy and funneled it into supporting the organizations that helped support us when I was sick. Fundraising for Ride for Roswell is a huge, huge part of that.”

While family has been a core part of Team AnnaLynn, its roster includes friends, colleagues and more.

“You name it, we’ve recruited them to be part of Team AnnaLynn,” she laughed.

AnnaLynn has suggested changing the name many times over the years, since several members of the team are riding for someone they love who has fought this disease or is currently fighting.

What keeps this team motivated is knowing there is still work to be done for cancer patients everywhere.

Fundraising Guidance

In 2023 alone, Team AnnaLynn raised more than $17,000. They lean on methods like posting on Facebook and Instagram or sending out traditional emails or letters.

“I think you’ll be really surprised at how many people are willing to give and those $5, $10 donations add up.”

However, they also aren’t afraid to think out of the box a little with their fundraising ideas. For example, AnnaLynn’s husband Mark came up with the idea to opt out of sending Christmas cards this year, and instead send New Year’s cards once registration opened. On the card, they included a QR code that linked to their fundraising dashboard.

AnnaLynn credits their fundraising success largely to their loyal network of supporters, who were by her side both when she was sick and now as she works to help others facing cancer.

“I think it just speaks to this larger presence in the Buffalo community where we all do this. We all hold each other up and support each other and what’s important.”

Paying it Forward

Ride for Roswell isn’t the only way AnnaLynn is making a difference for cancer patients. She recently started a faculty position at the University of Rochester. As an epidemiologist, she is doing clinical cancer research that focuses on trying to understand and prevent different symptoms and side effects that patients may experience, even decades after they’ve received care.

“It’s important to me to help patients make it through their treatment as comfortably as possible, but then also go on to live as healthy of a life as possible. You know, the life that they should have if they never had cancer in the first place.”

She wants to have a direct impact and change care for patients, something she understands all too well from her own experiences with the disease.

On a personal note, she is looking forward to continuing to enjoy life and all the moments that come with it. With that same contagious smile, she chuckled and said of the things she’s looking most forward to, fundraising for the Ride is up there on the list.

AnnaLynn and her family at her PHD graduation.

How Vidya Shah Became 2023’s Top Youth Fundraiser

How Vidya Shah Became 2023’s Top Youth Fundraiser

Vidya Shah, who is now a freshman at George Washington University, participated in her first Ride for Roswell in eighth grade. From a young age, she has understood the value of community, service to others and being a part of something bigger than herself. Her dedication to the cause paved the way for her to become the Ride’s top youth fundraiser of 2023.

Vidya Shah at Ride for Roswell (cropped)
Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2022

Vidya’s First Ride

Living in Western New York, Vidya was familiar with Ride for Roswell, but her connection to the event grew immensely after experiencing it for herself.

“I joined because I liked biking and then it spiraled into a lot more,” said Vidya.

That first year, she signed up for the June event in May. Even with a later start, she was able to rally a few people and make fundraising a priority.

“In the end, it was two of my friends and my mom, and we did the three-mile ride that year. We raised $1,800. It was definitely a welcome surprise to see so many of the people I reached out to were more than willing to donate.”

The atmosphere on Ride Day was unlike anything she could’ve anticipated.

“It was amazing. That’s why I wanted to come back and do it again and keep on extending the team.”

And that’s exactly what she did in the several years that followed.

Vidya’s Secret to Fundraising

For Vidya, fundraising isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, she uses a combination of traditional and modern methods to reach her goals.

She takes advantage of texting by sending a link of her fundraising dashboard to her family and friends multiple times throughout Ride Season. However, a major piece of her campaign is going door-to-door to collect donations. This part of the journey takes time. Vidya says she goes around her neighborhood and nearby communities over the span of several days.

“Even when going door-to-door, I came across two or three people who told me that they’re currently getting treated or they currently have cancer,” she explained. “It was very powerful going to those people’s houses and learning about their stories, and that is one of the main reasons I ride.”

Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2020.
Vidya at the 2020 Ride for Roswell.
Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2021.
Vidya's team in 2022

Connection to the Cause

Like so many riders, Vidya, too, has a personal connection to the cancer cause. Both of her maternal grandparents and her great-grandfather passed away from cancer.

“They were all obviously very close to my mother and I never got to meet my mom’s mom. She passed away before I was born.”

While her loved ones were in India during their battles with the disease, Vidya knows her involvement with the Ride has a worldwide impact.

“Even if my grandparents weren’t treated at Roswell Park or in the United States, just the general cause of cancer research really was quite personal for me.”

Two of Vidya’s friends were also diagnosed with cancer. Both are now thankfully doing well, but knowing the grasp cancer has on so many motivates Vidya to keep raising funds for Roswell Park.

“It’s in my hometown. It’s helping people in my community.”

Ride Your Own Way

Vidya has built a community of her own through her Ride for Roswell team. But, in 2023, the weekend event posed a conflict. The Ride fell on the same day as her high school graduation.

Her team, which included several other high school seniors, decided they still wanted to be involved even if they couldn’t participate in the traditional way. So, Vidya got right to work.

With the help of her family, she planned a separate ride for the following Sunday. It was a 10-mile route to Ellicott Creek Trailway Park.

“I think what exceeded all expectations was last year we had our biggest team yet with almost 36 members. And what surprised me was, over the years, I had teachers who had initially reached out about just donating, and this year they were saying, ‘Hey, I want to ride.’”

To recreate some of the Ride Day elements, parents of the riders followed along with their cars, and at the rest stops along the way, they supplied snacks and drinks and cheered on the team.

“That really helped make it a little bit closer to the experience. In general, the ride was great.”

Despite all the challenges and pivots that Ride Season, Vidya managed to hit her personal record for fundraising, and was honored as the Top Youth Fundraiser for 2023.

Her parents proudly accepted the award on her behalf at the Pathways Park Ceremony in August once Vidya was away at college.

Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2023
Vidya's family at the Pathways Park ceremony.
Vidya at the 2020 Ride for Roswell.

Why Young People Should Get Involved

The Ride has become not only a summer tradition for Vidya, but something that has grown into an important part of her life. She encourages other young people to get involved and do their part in the mission to end cancer.

“Nothing ever just comes in a big breakthrough. There are a lot of steps to take to get there and you are a part of those steps by just fundraising.”

Creating community, making memories and leaving a lasting impact: that’s what Vidya has accomplished through the Ride, a journey that began as a young teenager and continues as she enters adulthood.

“My connection with Ride for Roswell has definitely influenced me to want to pursue research and also to stay connected with service throughout my life.”

eBikes at Ride for Roswell

eBikes at Ride for Roswell

Ride for Roswell offers nine different routes, ranging from four to 100 miles. With nearly 8,000 riders, there is a mixed skillset among participants. While a traditional road or hybrid bike is preferred, some riders may want to complete their routes on an eBike. The good news is that class 1, pedal assist eBikes are allowed at Ride for Roswell. To ensure a safe and positive ride experience, however, there are some factors you should consider.

Ebikes stock photo

eBike Usage

Participants using eBikes must still follow the rules of the road. This includes riding on pace with the group of cyclists on your route, passing when safe and waiting your turn in traffic. eBikes should not be used as an adaptive aid to ride longer or faster than you would on a traditional bike.

Charging Your eBike

It is up to the rider to monitor their own charging progress.

One battery/charge will not be sufficient to get you through the longer routes, especially as riders approach the 100-mile mark. In some cases, riders may need two or three batteries for routes with higher mileage. If you bring a second battery, you will need to carry it with you during the ride and have a plan as to when you will change it on the route.

Still have questions about bringing your eBike?

Contact our team at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org.

Bill Loecher reaches $1,000,000 Lifetime Achievement

Bill Loecher reaches $1 million lifetime achievement

“If you know Bill, you know he moves fast. But there’s a method to Bill’s motion and it shows in all the things he’s done for both the Ride and Roswell Park.” 

– Mitch Flynn, Ride for Roswell Founder

This is a photo of Bill Loecher being honored for hitting $1 million in lifetime fundraising for Ride for Roswell.
Bill being interviewed at Ride for Roswell

In 2023, longtime rider and volunteer Bill Loecher reached a milestone only one other person has achieved in the history of Ride for Roswell: $1 million in lifetime fundraising. That year alone, he raised almost $185,000.

“Not only are people being cured but they’re extending their life. All of those things are happening and they’re happening right here at Roswell Park. It’s the most exciting time since I’ve been doing this,” said Bill in an interview at the 2023 Ride.

Commitment to the Cause

Bill’s impact on Roswell Park can’t be measured just in numbers — even though the numbers are incredibly impressive. You’d also have to look at his legacy as a whole.

Since 2012, Bill has captained Team West Herr. Under his leadership, West Herr is not only the Ride’s presenting sponsor, but also the top fundraising team. Bill’s dedication to the Ride spans far beyond Ride Weekend. He also volunteers with the event logistics team throughout the year as a member of the campus planning committee. In this role, he works with volunteers and staff to create a magical Ride Day experience for all who are involved. This entails overseeing food, flow and everything in between.

“Bill is one of a kind. He donates his time, his talents and his treasures to see the Ride succeed,” said Andrea Gregory, the director of Ride for Roswell. “Bill is at the Ride from sun up until sun down the week leading up to the event, and for several days post-event. The entire Ride Team is so grateful to Bill for his countless hours of support.”

Bill, Ride Founder Mitch Flynn, and other riders at Ride for Roswell
Bill with Roswell Park backdrop at the Peloton during Ride for Roswell
Bill Loecher at IceCycle

In 2018, Bill created and spearheaded the Herd of Hope campaign to enlist the Western New York corporate community in supporting cancer research at Roswell Park.

“Two $500,000 team science research grants were the immediate outcome of Bill’s Herd of Hope initiative,” said Ride Founder Mitch Flynn.

In addition to serving as the community chair of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation’s scientific advisory committee, Bill took on perhaps his biggest venture in 2021. That’s when he founded a new uniquely Buffalo peer-to-peer fundraising event called IceCycle. With Bill’s tenacity, even in the face of a global pandemic, IceCycle has raised more than $1.4 million (and counting) for cancer research and quality-of-life programs at Roswell Park.  

Honoring Bill’s Lifetime Achievement

At the close of every Ride Season, top fundraisers, teams and volunteers are honored during a ceremony in Kathy and Joe Curatolo Pathways Park. During the 2023 dedication, Bill was recognized for his lifetime achievement of raising $1 million for the Ride.

Mitch noted, “It took the Ride 11 years to break the million-dollar mark for single-year fundraising, and that was back in 2006. By contrast, it only took Bill ten years to break the million-dollar mark for all-time fundraising.”

Perhaps it’s Bill’s background as a “car guy” that gives him the tools to sell this incredible cause to possible donors, or maybe it’s his contagious energy around the mission that makes people want to give back. However he does it, Bill has paved the way for lifechanging research and care through his fundraising, and he’s set a gold standard for how others can do the same.

Still, Bill emphasized that the fundraising totals are just one measure of a rider’s efforts. He took his time at the podium during the Pathways Park ceremony to highlight another group of riders. Not the top fundraisers, but instead, riders who are recognized for their efforts in securing donations.

“While the success of the Ride, like any other fundraising event, is measured in financial terms, I’ll suggest it’s not just all about the money. It’s the passion, the dedication, the determination and the relentless efforts of these individuals that truly define the success of this event.”

Bill Loecher speaking at Pathways Park, being honored for his Ride for Roswell lifetime fundraising achievement.

The Ride Team thanks you, Bill, for your years of incredible dedication and service!

Jim Mize Honored as Volunteer of the Year

Jim Mize Honored as Volunteer of the Year

Volunteers are at the core of what makes Ride for Roswell such an impactful event year after year. They keep riders safe, fed, hydrated and happy. Jim Mize embodies all the best of what it means to be a Ride for Roswell volunteer. That’s why he’s being honored as the 2023 Ride for Roswell Volunteer of the Year.

Ride for Roswell Volunteer of the Year, Jim Mize, with Andrea Gregory
2023 Ride for Roswell Volunteer of the Year, Jim Mize

Ride Weekend

Jim began volunteering with Ride for Roswell 15 years ago and now serves as the start-line lead volunteer.

“The amalgamation of people from all different ages and groups working together for a common cause makes the Ride a very special experience.”

When asked about his secret to longevity as a volunteer, without hesitation Jim replied, “It’s the people. I love working with the Ride for Roswell team, the staff. I love working with the volunteers and interacting with the riders and spectators. It is such a fun event, and there is a great buzz, but even if you take all of that away, we’re raising funds for such a good cause – cancer research.”

The Cause

Funds raised through the Ride directly benefit cancer research and critical clinical trials at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. For Jim, that mission resonates on a personal level.

“Cancer has hit close to home many times. I never met my grandmother because she passed from cancer at the age of 37. Both of my grandfathers were lost to cancer as were my mother-in-law and my father. My father so wished he had more time here on Earth. My hope and my motivation for serving on the Ride team is to do what I can to help raise funds for cancer research so that others may have a better outcome. This organization is constantly progressing with the research and the treatments that are being developed. The progress that has been made is both encouraging and wonderful.”

Message to the next generation of volunteers

Jim describes his time volunteering with Ride for Roswell as fun and rewarding. He believes there’s a great balance between longtime volunteers and young people who have just recently joined the cause.

His message to someone considering volunteering at next year’s Ride: “Anybody who volunteers is going to find that it’s a great experience. This is one of the best events that I’ve ever been a part of from a volunteer standpoint. My overall feeling about Ride for Roswell is so good that I just want to keep coming back. I love it.

Jim Mize and a volunteer at Ride for Roswell
Jim Mize receiving his Ride for Roswell Volunteer of the Year award at Pathways Park.

Volunteer of the Year

Every year, dedicated members of the Ride Community are honored during a celebration in the Kathy and Joe Curatolo Pathways Park. The event shines a light on the event’s top fundraisers, teams and volunteers.

As the 2023 Volunteer of the Year, a brick with Jim’s name on it now has a permanent home in Pathways Park on Roswell Park’s campus, to be seen by employees, visitors and patients for generations to come.

“I am honored and humbled by this kind gesture. I am also grateful for the great support of Ashley Gracie, Katie Menke, Andrea Gregory and Tom Johnston. I also appreciate all of the excellent volunteers who helped with the start line on Ride Day. It is fun to be around everyone as we help raise funds for such a great cause.”

The Ride Team thanks you, Jim, for your years of incredible dedication and service!

Team Wheel Strong’s mission to spread hope through the Ride

Team Wheel Strong’s mission to spread hope through the Ride

Team Wheel Strong is a fundraising powerhouse for Ride for Roswell. In 2023 alone, the efforts of more than 50 riders helped to surpass the team’s fundraising goal of $45,000.

Reflecting on Wheel Strong’s growth since the team was started only three years ago, co-captain Eliot Jimerson became emotional.

“This was not in my plans,” he said with tears in his eyes. “People suffer, and I don’t like to see that. That’s why we ride.”

Eliot Jimerson of Team Wheel Strong at Ride for Roswell's Celebration of Hope.
This is a photo of Eliot Jimerson and Geneva Locke of Team Wheel Strong at Ride for Roswell.

How Team Wheel Strong began

Eliot felt the same helplessness so many of us do when someone close to him lost a loved one to cancer.

He explained, “I just didn’t have any words, so I said to my daughter, “It feels like I should do more. What could we do?’”

Geneva Locke, Eliot’s daughter, came up with the idea to register for the Ride.

“We decided together as a father and a daughter that we were going to participate in the Ride, and we never knew at that time the overwhelming amount of hope and support there is around Roswell Park,” said Geneva.

Eliot added, “Everybody kept saying, ‘I want to ride,’ and it turned into a team.”

From family, to friends, to community, Team Wheel Strong became a welcome space for anyone motivated to fight back against cancer.

Community at the center

“Our team is made up largely of our community, and our home base is on the Seneca Nation Territory, but our team also branches out with other Native Nations,” said Geneva.

With riders from several other indigenous communities joining the movement, Team Wheel Strong’s efforts to raise awareness for Roswell Park spread far beyond Ride Weekend. 

“It started out as community involvement. We had a lot of pop-up rides that first year because our kids wanted to get on their bikes. We would advertise these pop-up rides and charge a small fee for families,” Geneva explained. “It was more or less to provide a safe place for our community members to ride with their families on territory because we don’t have sidewalks and the roads are very busy. We would use our community center, and everybody was just so supportive.”

The more they got involved, the more they came across other people who had been affected by cancer. Those personal connections are what the team captains believe have helped Wheel Strong gain so much momentum.

“If you count all the support around us, it’s around 65 people. There are people who are involved and don’t ride, but they do a lot of the work and they’re the ones who deserve a lot of recognition,” said Eliot.

Members of Team Wheel Strong at the Ride for Roswell kickoff party.
Members of Team Wheel Strong at Ride for Roswell in 2021
Team Wheel Strong Logo

The significance of the Wheel Strong logo

It’s easy to spot a Team Wheel Strong rider because their jerseys are so unique and prominent. Coming up with a design was no easy feat.

Geneva, who was the mastermind behind the logo, explained the inspiration.

“My grandpa, who suffered from cancer, used to be able to ride a unicycle. He also had a single wheel that he would push around with this wire cord and run behind it, and the kids always thought it was a great time. So, it was important to me to include a wheel,” she exclaimed with a smile.

“We knew we wanted to have some sort of cultural touch to it and that’s where we decided to put the Hiawatha Belt, which represents the Haudenosaunee and signifies the unity of our people as well as our team.”

Designating funds from the Ride

Riders have the option to designate their fundraising dollars to a specific area of need. Several riders on Team Wheel Strong, including Geneva, are choosing to designate their funds to Roswell Park’s Center of Indigenous Cancer Research.

“If you can have something that you can identify with, that warms your heart, feels like home, especially when you’re walking into a scary situation like a cancer diagnosis, that’s what the Indigenous Center can grow to do for many of our community members that have to turn to Roswell Park every year,” said Geneva.

Looking forward to Ride Weekend

Ride Weekend is a multi-generational celebration for Eliot and Geneva’s family.

“Crossing the finish line, I think of my team. I think of my grandkids,” said Eliot. “I have my grandson who I ride with. He’s a little guy, but he does 30 miles.”

And despite the heaviness and sadness around cancer, they try to keep the atmosphere for their team one of positivity and unity.

“All I ever wanted Wheel Strong to do was provide hope for those who fight the fight. Hopefully one day we’re all just cheering for the end of cancer,” Geneva explained.

Eliot added, “There’s so much hatred in the world it seems sometimes, but when you come together for a cause and put all your differences aside, I believe that’s when miracles can happen. And that’s what I see with the Ride.”

Eliot Jimerson and his grandson Myles of Team Wheel Strong at Ride for Roswell

Your Ride fuels a lifesaving brain cancer vaccine

Your Ride fuels a lifesaving brain cancer vaccine

When you commit to Ride for Roswell, you’re making an impact on patients who are facing some of the most terrifying news of their life: a cancer diagnosis.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer with a usually pretty scary prognosis. It doesn’t typically respond well to standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation in the long run. Scientists at Roswell Park wanted to do something about that, so about 15 years ago, they set to work developing a new treatment option.

A brain tumor vaccine called SurVaxM now in a phase 2b clinical trial was developed at Roswell Park by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Director of the Neuro-Oncology Lab. This unique immunotherapy treatment vaccine, now being developed by MimiVax, targets survivin, a protein that helps cancer cells stay alive. Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski have been moving the clinical trial forward every step of the way.

This endeavor has been funded by donor support since 2014 through the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.”

A brain tumor vaccine called SurVaxM now in a phase 2b clinical trial was developed at Roswell Park by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Director of the Neuro-Oncology Lab.

Through clinical trials, this vaccine has given hope to many patients, including a 26-year-old man named Avery Richmond. Avery has been a farmer all his life. He has his wife Kelsey welcomed newborn son Teddy in 2022. Two months later, Avery collapsed, leading to the discovery of a lemon-sized tumor on his brain. Glioblastoma took this young family by surprise, but their resilience and the hope brought by the SurVaxM clinical trial have them giving thanks for every precious moment together.

Thanks to Ride for Roswell donors and participants, patients like Avery get more time with their loved ones and permission to hope for a brighter tomorrow.

SurVaxM was recently featured nationally on NBC News.