Featured Team: Team Madonia

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

Team Madonia participates in the Ride for Roswell each year to honor the memory of Jacob Madonia. Jake fought a courageous 10 year battle with synovial sarcoma and passed away in 2018 at age 30. Though Jake was diagnosed at a young age, he never let cancer hold him back from the things he wanted to accomplish in life. He received his Masters degree and BSN from UB, he was a decorated collegiate athlete and became a devoted husband and father. Jake was not only a patient at Roswell, he was also a dedicated oncology nurse. He used his experience to educate others about his disease and push himself and his fellow nurses to provide superior care to their patients. His unique perspective made him an exceptional nurse who could connect with patients in a way many other nurses could not. Jake was special to so many people he crossed paths with in his life. Team Madonia is made up of family, friends, co-workers, and many others who had the chance to connect with Jake over the years in the different facets of his life. What brings us together each year for the Ride for Roswell is our mutual love for the incredible person we knew, our mutual heartbreak that we lost him much too soon to cancer, and the hope that our efforts will lead to a cure, so no one else has to lose someone as special to them as Jake was to all of us.

Team Madonia team member poses for photo
Team Madonia group photo

What is your favorite part about Ride Weekend?

My favorite part of ride weekend is lining up at the start line in my team shirt with all the Team Madonia riders knowing we are all there to fight cancer and honor Jake. I know he would be proud of us all.

What does leading a team mean to you?

I am honored each year to be captain of Team Madonia. Our team is comprised of amazing and compassionate people coming together to find a cure for cancer that robbed us all of one of our favorite people. I am incredibly proud of what Team Madonia has accomplished over the past several years.

Featured Rider: Tim Keller

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

My wife, Debbi, was first diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in September of 2009. Since then, she’s been moved up to stage 4 with several metastases to her ovaries, abdominal wall and muscle, lungs, liver, pancreas, chest cavity, and chest lymph nodes. Since our first visit, the staff and doctors at Roswell have gone out of their way to help us feel welcomed. Our home is in Rochester, NY and she receives primary oncology support through the Lipson Cancer Center at Rochester General. Still, we’ve been to Roswell several times for consultations and information upcoming trials. Cycling is something I love to do, and this is one way I can help to give back.

Tim Keller and friend take a selfie

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

The Peloton is my favorite part. Last year was my first year participating and I enjoyed meeting new people and the welcoming atmosphere.

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

So far, for the past three years I have focused on using Facebook as my primary fundraising platform.

Featured Team: Let’s Get Lizzycle

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

We each have our own personal reasons… some of us have had cancer ourselves or have had experiences at Roswell with loved ones, or have lost parents, siblings, friends… and many of my teammates have had consultations with Roswell doctors for particular concerns, and they know what an amazing place it is. Many of us work either directly with or in support of biomedical research, and so we know first hand how important funding is. No cure for cancer can be found without a ton of money, and we are dedicated to helping Roswell fund projects to do just that.
Let's Get Lizzycle group photo at paint night
Let's Get Lizzycle group photo

What is your favorite part about Ride Weekend?

That’s easy. The actual Ride is great, but I love the Celebration of Hope. My first Celebration happened in the middle of my breast cancer treatments. I didn’t have hair (maybe a little peach fuzz), nor did I actually ride a bike that year, but I was feeling the RFR love big time. The Celebration of Hope 2016 was a night I’ll never, ever forget. I was a month post-surgery, and still faced a summer of radiation, but that night, it was all about the Ride. I felt supported, I felt peaceful, and I felt inspired. The community that surrounded me lifted me up in a way I could never have imagined, and that’s definitely not something I had ever felt before. Each year I love bringing our team together and having a blast, while reflecting on why we do the Ride.

What does leading a team mean to you?

It’s empowering. It gives me a tangible way to not only fight cancer, but to give back to the place that helped me through the darkest days of my life- and continues to do so. My colleagues, friends and family and I have grown even closer as we work together to host our annual big fundraising event, come up with new ideas to engage with our communities and raise money, and attend RFR events throughout the year. We have a great time together, as we are all a little bit crazy! 🙂 We have become a “framily” and I am very proud of the work we do. We strive to be in the top 100 teams every year, to do our very best for Roswell Park.

Featured Rider: Cassie Townsend

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

I ride in hopes to end the fight against cancer. I first rode in 2018, and by 2019 I had become a patient and had my first surgery at Roswell. Ever since it has really held a special place in my heart! From the administrative and medical staff, to the riders and volunteers… it really feels like such a close community!

Cassie Townsend progress photo

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

It’s hard to pick just one thing that I love most about Ride Weekend! Truly, the patient tribute and the peloton at the Celebration of hope, that alone is enough to give you goosebumps! It’s the perfect reminder of why we fundraise and ride.

Cassie Townsend selfie

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

I think a lot of my work for fundraising is year long when sharing my skin cancer journey. Once it comes time for donations I post a lot on social media with ride facts and share my own pictures. I also make sure each person that donates knows how much I appreciate them putting their hard earned money towards this important cause!

Featured Team: Desmond Strong

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

We ride for my 8 year old son Desmond. He survived high risk t-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and rang the bell in April 2021. We also ride for all the pediatric cancer patients.

Team photo with Ride lawn sign

What is your favorite part about Ride Weekend?

The Opening Ceremony is always so memorable and powerful for me. I cry tears of happiness for the survivors and wish for hope for all those still on their cancer journey. And I remember all those friends that have passed before us from this terrible disease.

What does leading a team mean to you?

Leading a team with my son by my side throughout his treatment, during a global pandemic, AND then last year as a survivor has meant the world to me. I want the community to see that our story provides hope and love for all that are traveling down a path with a cancer diagnosis. As a single mother, watching the strength of my son (who was 5 at time of diagnosis) is something I can never fully describe with words. I carry his strength with me as I lead a team for the Ride every year.

Featured Rider: Barbara Gilmartin-Przybyla

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

To help raise funds to fight this terrible disease which has taken far too many lives including my Dad, family members and many friends. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in March 2021 as well as suffered a stroke four months later. I previously had Malignant Melanoma over 30 years ago, thankfully diagnosed very early.

My boyfriend Jim worked with me to get back in the saddle as I was determined to ride in 2021, roughly a month after the stroke. We both reached the Extra Mile level in 2021 and are shooting for the Peloton in 2022! I never imagined Cancer would happen to me. I am very active, eat well and was into the first year of my retirement when I went for my yearly Mammogram. I am so very thankful to my Doctors and the Staff at Roswell … I am here today, recently celebrating another birthday and prepping for the 2022 Ride For Roswell. I will also continue share my journey with friends and family … about 20 friends scheduled their Mammograms with good results!! Jim and my daughters Kristin and Kathryn have been my rocks during this journey. I hope to be there for anyone who needs support or just a friend!

Barbara with partner
Barbara with partner

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

For several years I volunteered on race day at the start gate or rode. Always exciting to cheer on the participants! The opening ceremonies including watching the Peloton riders arrive at UB was very emotional for me in 2021, just months after going through a whirlwind of being diagnosed, surgery, treatments and subsequent stroke. The feel of “community” was so prevalent!

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

I started fundraising on my birthday in January via Facebook and Instagram. I will continue to update on social media and will plan a fundraising event.

Getting more time, thanks to cutting-edge treatments at Roswell Park

James Ace and his wife, Carol, own a restaurant in Belfast, New York, where they’ve been serving their neighbors for the last 40+ years. The past 10 years of James’ life have been blessed with grandchildren and great grandchildren whom he has been so delighted to get to know.

If it hadn’t been for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, he believes he would have missed out on getting to know them. Without donor support, patients like James would have far less access to lifesaving advancements like the one that saved James’ life.

Cancer entered James’ life 10 years ago, bringing him to Roswell Park. Clinicians found “horribly aggressive cancer in his right kidney,” with very limited treatment options, according to James’ longtime doctor Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, and The William and Nancy Gacioch Family Endowed Chair in Translational Research.

“This man had no other chance but trying something cutting-edge, something completely new, something completely out of the box. Something you really can’t get anywhere else but a place like Roswell Park,” Dr. Schwaab said.

Breakthroughs in research and advances in treatment at Roswell Park gave James hope. Dr. Schwaab collaborated with Anurag Singh, MD, Director of Radiation Research to give James his best chance. Dr. Singh was studying a novel approach to radiation at the time called stereotactic body radiation therapy which concentrates on the center of the tumor instead of a larger area, which was more typical at the time and still is in many cases. This was a research project that was funded thanks to donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

James and Carol were all in. “What other choice did we have at the time?” Carol asked. “It was that or just go home and die, and I think that was just an opportunity that was presented to us that we had to take.”

Four weeks after radiation, Dr. Singh’s innovative approach allowed Dr. Schwaab to completely remove the cancer from James’ kidney. He still followed through with chemotherapy and new immunotherapy options, but James’ once daunting diagnosis was behind him. To this day, James’ kidneys are “still looking good,” Dr. Schwaab confirmed.

“It just makes you feel like it was worth it to keep going,” James remembered. “I don’t know how many times I wanted to give up if it weren’t for [my Roswell Park doctors] who kept me going.”

Breakthroughs, like Dr. Singh’s innovative discovery, in cancer research and treatment are made possible by donors.

“He was one of the first people that we treated like this,” said Dr. Singh. “James Ace participating in this study has had an impact on kidney cancer patients throughout the world … He had the confidence that we could do what we were saying and that actually gave us confidence, as well.” What was once a bold step forward, funded through passionate philanthropy, is now saving lives on a regular basis.

That is the power of making a gift to Roswell Park.

Featured Team: #inittoWINNit

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

One of our riders has cancer and is going through treatments as we speak. Ron was the reasons we all started to ride. We also ride for all the family and friends who have battled cancer and won and those who have battle hard until the end.

What is your favorite part about Ride Weekend?

I rode in the Peloton last year –  what an amazing experience!

What does leading a team mean to you?

It is emotional. Last year was my first time and I was overwhelmed with emotions by the stories and reasons people formed teams.

Featured Rider: Lindsey Darin

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

My cousin and I signed up for our first Ride after our uncle was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After that first experience, I was hooked! It’s such a great, well-organized event that it would be hard to not participate for my loved ones every year. Plus, it’s a great way to stay in shape!

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

The Peloton! My first Peloton experience was back when we rode through the UB football stadium and I felt like a celebrity. It was such an amazing experience.  And every year, it’s still the same feeling. From the emotional send-off at Roswell, to the police escorts, to the Celebration of Hope – it’s all so worth it!

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

My family, friends, and co-workers continue to amaze me each year with their generosity. I am always blown away that even after so many years, they all continue to support me! Right after I sign up for the Ride, I usually send an email through my Ride for Roswell dashboard, and lately I have been connecting and sharing my Ride website to Facebook to get a few more donations, too.

Featured Team: Not Today Cancer

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

To give back to the place that treated me for breast cancer in 2021 and raise money to ensure our community has the best cancer treatment facility.

Two Riders pose holding hands

What is your favorite part about Ride Weekend?

Being around others and having volunteers cheer you on. People come out of their houses along the route to say, “Thanks for riding” and “You can do this.”

What does leading a team mean to you?

To go from hearing you have cancer last year to 6 months later riding 30 miles in my first RFR, it means being a survivor and encouraging others to be.