Lending a Helping Hand – 5 Ride Volunteers Share Why They Do It

Every year, more than 2,000 volunteers show up on the last Saturday in June to help put on the Ride for Roswell. Our event simply would not be possible without their continued dedication and passion to our cause. In honor of our 25th anniversary and our 25 Tales series, we spoke to five volunteers about their experience and why they come back every year to be a part of the Ride for Roswell.

Elaine R.

Elaine has been volunteering for the Ride for Roswell for 13 years. She has always worked in the food tent serving breakfast and lunch to riders and other volunteers.

For Elaine, volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience.

“I am not a medical professional.  I do not have the ability to find a cure for cancer. But what I can do is support this incredible event so that monies raised can be used for much needed cancer research.

“The Ride for Roswell gives me hope that a cure for cancer will be found.  We are so very fortunate to have Roswell Park in our community.  I will come out year after year to support the efforts of the outstanding doctors, medical staff and researchers at Roswell until a cure is found.”

Matt Y.

Matt’s Ride volunteer journey started at the Extra Mile Club station at registration. Then, he moved on to handing out t-shirts and this year, he’s helping to deliver lawn signs. He’s been volunteering for five years. He has also participated in all 25 rides and has been an EMC for 18 years.

He rides and volunteers because it’s a cause very close to his heart.

“When I started it was just because I thought it was a good cause. 

“Now, I have a list of people that have suffered from cancer, some have survived and some have not. I hope to help find a cure so that everyone in the future is a survivor. 

Each year I think of 1 or 2 of them. This year I am honoring Mike P., a rider and survivor. He is a very big supporter of Roswell and I find him inspirational when he tells his story.”

Sandy S.

Sandy and her Ken-Ton Girl Scouts volunteer at the t-shirts table on the Friday before the Ride and as campus guides on Ride Day. They’ve been doing this for four years. Sandy said they do it because of all the hope Roswell Park brings.

“Roswell Park is such an inspirational place that gives people hope when they think that all is lost. I am honored to be a small part of the Ride and I’m always amazed at how much joy my scouts get from participating. They truly enjoy volunteering & helping out wherever they are needed.

“I first began volunteering as a way to stand by my best friend as she rode in memory of her Father, who lost his battle with Lymphoma in 2001. I could definitely not ride as far as she does, but, think that volunteering is a great way to show my support for her, her amazing team and all who participate in the Ride. “

“I also volunteer in the memory of several family members and friends who have lost their battles with cancer, but will always live on” 

Colleen and Weegie

Colleen and Weegie are not only riders and members of the Extra Mile Club, but also route and sign volunteers. They have both been volunteering for about five years. For this pair, volunteering gives them the opportunity to give a little bit of themselves to an organization that does so much for so many people.

“It is an honor to participate every year and do our part to raise needed funds for cancer research and play a part in giving someone hope, brightening someone’s day, and letting someone know that we care.”

They both participate for various people in their families who have battled cancer.

“I ride every year in memory of my dad, who we lost in 2005 to colon cancer. He was treated at Roswell and I’ll never forget the kindness of each person we dealt with during his treatments and visits. No one treated him as a person who was dying of cancer, but as a human being. Smiles, kind words, hope and compassion… that sure left an impression. I also ride in memory of my uncle and in honor of family and friends who’ve fought their own battles,” Colleen said.

“I ride in honor of two of my sisters, both breast cancer survivors, and in memory of my mom, who unfortunately lost her battle with cancer two and a half years ago,” Weegie said. 

Diane K.

2019 was Diane’s first year as a Ride for Roswell volunteer. She worked volunteer check in all weekend. This year, she’s back and helping with lawn signs in the Tonawanda area. 

For Diane, volunteering at the Ride means everything.

“I get emotional when I speak about why I volunteer – volunteering fills my heart. 

The commitment of those involved with the Ride for Roswell made an impression on me from the start. I knew I had found another organization that I would stay committed to for, I hope, a long time.

“Last year I did it for many family members and friends. This year I volunteer in honor of my beautiful cousin Leah who was diagnosed in February.”

Diane plans to keep volunteering at this event to continue the mission of the Ride.

“For me, there is a need to support, raise awareness and raise funds for many organizations. Volunteers are a necessary part of that.”

Let’s Ride Together In August

August will be here before we know it – and that means it’s time to ride! We can’t wait to gather for our in-person rides during the Summer of the Ride.

When you choose to ride with us, you’ll get a little bit of that much-loved Ride Day experience at three different locations throughout Western New York with various start times and distances. These rides will be taking place at the following locations.

As a reminder, every 20 minutes groups of 10 or less riders will be set out to participate in the Summer of the Ride.

So what can you expect to experience? When you arrive to your location of choice, you’ll be greeted by our incredible parking volunteers and hear jams playing to get you energized for the day. Our volunteers will welcome you and direct you to your spot. Then, you will follow the signs to a check-in tent, which will be located in the same parking lot. Our team will remind you of proper social distancing techniques and once checked in, you’ll be able to fill out your tribute card, write the name of a survivor you know on the sidewalk, and grab a snack bag courtesy of Tops.

When your group’s start time is announced, you’ll pass through the Summer of the Ride start line arch to kick off your adventure. Throughout your ride, you’ll see cheerleaders ringing the famous Ride cowbells and riding marshals keeping you on track and safe. You’ll also be able to take a break at a water stop where first aid and basic bike repair supplies will be available. And be sure to keep smiling because you might spot some Ride photographers along the way, capturing the excitement of the Summer of the Ride! As you near the end of your route, you will pass a finish line, chalked with the names of those we ride for: loved ones we’ve lost, current patients and survivors.

When you’re all done, make sure to hop on over to our selfie photo station and get a picture with your teammates. Don’t forget to post it on social using #RFR20 and tag us (@rideforroswell).

Ready to sign up?!

In order to secure your timeslot, you must be registered for the Ride first. The great news is that there are no registration fees or fundraising minimums – all you have to do is register here.

After that, you’ll be logged into your participants dashboard. There will be a green button at the top. Click on it to reserve your spot. 

This is where you can select the date and time you and your team would like to ride at. You can search by date, location or both. Please note – you can register up to 9 people including yourself. You will need to know the name, email and phone number of everyone you are registering. Additionally, you will only be able to register once so make sure you pick the correct date.

When you are ready to secure your spot, click Register under the correct date and time.

You will then be taken to the registration page where your information will automatically populate. When you are done, click Next Step.

After clicking on Next Step, you will come to a review page. Here you can either complete your registration or register another rider and repeat the above steps. You will need some of their information: their name, the email address they used when registering for the Ride and phone number. 

Once you are done, click Complete Registration and you will be redirected to your participant dashboard, which will be updated with your in-person ride details.

We can’t wait to ride together in August! If you don’t feel comfortable attending one of these rides, you can still participate in the Summer of the Ride by riding your own way. You are in charge of your adventure – choose the time, location and distance that works best for you. We even have a special guide to help with creating your own route.

No matter what way you choose to participate, we can’t wait to make this summer impactful for cancer patients. 

Pick Up Your Rider Rewards…Curbside!

Even though the Ride for Roswell has had to change things up this year, we still want to bring some of our most-loved experiences to our community. One of those moments is collecting your Rider Rewards! This year, we are offering curbside pickup.

With the help of our incredible host, the University at Buffalo,  you will be able to pick up all of the rewards that you have earned so far – drive-through style. Riders are still encouraged to fundraise through August 21 to earn as many rewards as possible! Additional rewards will be mailed out at the conclusion of the Ride. 

Our last curbside pickup will be taking place in the beginning of September.  

Date Time
Tuesday, September 1st
3 - 7 p.m.
Wednesday, September 2nd
11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

When you arrive to UB, there will be a redemption center set up in the Center for Tomorrow Parking Lot (see map below).  The CFT parking lot is easily accessible if you enter UB via the Flint Road entrance off of Maple Road.  The CFT Lot will be on your left almost immediately. 

We encourage you to stay in your car, and drive up to the Redemption area. Staff and volunteers will be there to check your fundraising total and give you everything you’ve earned. From there, you can drive off and proudly start displaying your #RFR20 rewards. Need a reminder or a little motivation of all the rewards we are offering?

Will Stop for Turtles – Animal Rescue Takes Place at the 2019 Ride

For Darci Dougherty, it doesn’t matter if you’re a turtle, snake, or frog – if she sees you trying to cross the road, she’ll jump off her bike and give you a helping hand. And that’s exactly what happened at the 2019 Ride for Roswell.

Darci was riding the 65 mile route when she spotted something up ahead of her group of riders, right in their path. Once she realized it was a turtle and her group was quickly approaching it, she signaled her fellow riders that she was stopping to help the animal cross the road. As quickly and safely as she could, she unclipped from her bike, grabbed the turtle and moved him across the road in the direction he was heading.

“I’m sure he had very important turtle things to do,” Darci said. “I really didn’t want him to get crushed, but I also didn’t want any of the riders to go over their handlebars hitting him because they didn’t have time to go around or cause an accident with other riders swerving.”

Her teammates from Team Hollyloft are used to Darci stopping when there is wildlife in need of a bit of help and so they stopped with her. And when some Ride marshals saw what was happening, they jumped in to help, too, making it a real team effort.

“Once they realized what was going on, they made sure that all of the riders coming through stayed away from us,” she said. “Luckily, there wasn’t much vehicle traffic on the road at that time so we didn’t have to worry about that.”

In the spirit of the Ride, Darci, like all of our riders, is always ready to lend a helping hand.

“Anytime you can help someone or something that needs assistance is a good thing.”

2020 will be the fifth year Darci is riding, and she’s encouraging all her fellow riders to keep an eye out for turtles on the road, whether you’re walking, running, or driving consider giving them a hand across the road if you can do it safely. And don’t forget to wash your hands!

Introducing Orange DreamCycle – the Ride’s 25th Anniversary Ice Cream

2020 is a special year for the Ride and our friends at Tops Friendly Markets wanted to give our community a little something extra to celebrate our 25th anniversary. 

Introducing the Ride’s very own ice cream! 

Say Hello to ORange Dreamcycle

This light and refreshing treat bursts with a delicious orange flavor, which is perfect to enjoy as the weather begins to warm up. And the best part? A portion of all sales will go back to the Ride! So while you’re enjoying a scoop (or two!) of this dessert that’s made with no artificial flavors, no partially hydrogenated oils, and no high fructose corn syrup, you can feel great because you’re also giving back to cancer patients in Western New York.

“This is a very special year for the Ride for Roswell, so it’s just wonderful that Tops — which is such a great partner to us in so many ways — designed this ice cream to honor the Ride and its legacy while also supporting our mission.  I know I speak for everyone at Roswell Park and at the Ride when I express my gratitude for Tops’ continuing relationship with us and for helping ease the cancer journey for our patients while we continue our search for a cure,” says Candace S. Johnson, PhD, President and CEO, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Tops has been a longstanding Revolution sponsor for the Ride for Roswell and we can’t thank them enough for all they do for us. 

Pick up a carton of Orange DreamCycle at any local Tops location!

Cancer Never Stops, and Neither Does Tops

Every Buffalonian knows that Tops never stops giving us more. It’s a phrase every Western New Yorker has grown up hearing on the radio or seeing on TV. And since they’re one of the Ride’s Revolution sponsors, our community couldn’t agree more. 

Tops Friendly Markets came on board as an official Ride sponsor in 2014. What started as standard sponsorship quickly grew and evolved as the years progressed. Today, Tops comes to the Ride with a full team of do-gooders – employees stock the food tent and the rest stops, jump on their bikes and ride, fundraise and ensure all Ride Day volunteers are fed. And Tops’ vendors and employees make it all possible. 

How It all started

According to Kathy Allen, Senior Manager of Community Relations, Tops’ enthusiasm and dedication to the Ride start from the top, with Chairman and CEO Frank Curci and President and COO John Persons leading the charge. They embrace the cause and make sure the entire company is aware of how to participate – whether that’s riding, donating, volunteering or being a virtual rider. Their passion trickles down throughout the entire corporation, and, as a result, the Tops team sees quite the turnout.

Last year, more than 100 Tops employees came out to the University at Buffalo for the 2019 Ride for Roswell. It’s a real group effort but something that they all enjoy; this day is something they look forward to – from the executive committee to store cashiers and their friends and family, according to Courtney Mailhot, Community Relations Coordinator at Tops. 

Why does the cause matter so much? Because it’s something that everyone at Tops understands and can relate to.

“If you haven’t personally been affected by a loved one, then you probably have a co-worker or a neighbor who has,” Kathy said. “It’s a relatable event that everyone wants to try and help.

“People have that integrity with wanting to be involved with Roswell because they know that the dollars are well invested. The impact is not only on the local community, but even beyond that … You can really make a difference.”

To date, the Tops team has raised more than $260,000 for Roswell Park. Here’s what some of their employees have said about why the Ride matters to them.

Testimonials from the tops team

The COVID-19 Response Fund

We are living in a global event most of us could not have imagined even a few weeks ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes in all our lives, with profound upheavals in family, social, financial and work situations.

And not only is this pandemic affecting our most vulnerable including cancer patients – it has also changed the lives of those that care for them, our health care workers.

Hospitals are rapidly shifting to adapt to the evolving demands of caring for COVID-19 patients, and Roswell Park is no exception. 

Throughout the month of April, all Ride donations will go toward the Roswell Park COVID-19 Response Fund, which will be used immediately to help our patients and staff in four vital areas.

Medical Treatment & Research

Roswell Park researchers continue to work in close collaboration with cancer centers around the nation. Our researchers are already preparing projects to develop everything from assessment tools to treatments of patients impacted by a global pandemic like COVID-19. Research donations to Roswell’s COVID-19 Response fund will be earmarked for three research studies.

Patient Financial Assistance - The Angel Fund

There are times when patients and their families experience extraordinary financial challenges when diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment. The impact of COVID-19 makes that financial strain even more debilitating. The Angel Fund provides critical financial support for those we serve who find themselves in sudden and desperate financial circumstances during this pandemic.

Staff & Patient Support

While there is a self-isolation and work from home mandate from New York State, there are essential clinical staff and patients who have to come to Roswell Park. These individuals do not have a choice during this pandemic but here are several ways this fund seeks to support these individuals during this pandemic. Support of the COVID-19 Response Fund will help purchase:

  • iPads for patient communication with loved ones while visitors are limited during the pandemic.
  • Meals for frontline caregivers to provide dinner to their family after a long shift.
  • Massage chairs in the staff wellness rooms.
  • Health monitoring supplies to patients to utilize during telemedicine appointments.

MEdical Supplies

N95 masks are an invaluable line of defense for our staff against coronavirus. Support of the COVID-19 Response Fund will help Roswell Park purchase approved masks to quickly get them into the hands of our front line staff to keep them and our patients safe.

While we don’t know how long this current environment will last,

we do know there is an immediate need for help. Your support of Roswell Park’s COVID-19 Response Fund during  this new fight, right here at home, will be put to work immediately.

An Important Message from the Ride for Roswell

In these crazy times, it’s difficult not to get overwhelmed with all the constant changes and uncertainty of the future.

We get it because we feel it, too.

We want you to know that our team is working through whether the 2020 Ride for Roswell weekend will take place as it usually does. We are considering several options – the traditional Ride Day, a modified date or plan, or going completely virtual. This is a lot to consider – but know that we are working closely with top public health officials to make the right decision. The safety of our riders, our volunteers, our sponsors, Roswell Park staff and patients, and the Western New York community as a whole is our top priority.

We will have an official decision on May 1.

No matter what we decide, #RFR20 will take place in some way because our mission matters just as much as it ever has, if not more than ever before. The people we’ve spent the last 25 years riding for are some of the community’s most vulnerable during this global pandemic. They need us – to keep pushing, keep riding and keep raising funds.

They are depending on us. We won’t stop, and we know you won’t either.

Thank you for being on our side and joining us in our mission to end cancer.

Throughout the month of April,

all Ride donations will go toward the Roswell Park COVID-19 Response Fund, which will be used immediately to help our patients and staff in four vital areas:

Thank you again, for your support, your dedication and your passion. Together we will do what we do best –make a difference.

Be safe and healthy.

Your friends at Ride for Roswell

To Our Ride Community – Thank You

The Ride community never ceases to amaze us, and this past week was no exception.

Right now, times are tough. Not only is life full of uncertainty, but everyday people are still getting diagnosed with cancer. But, because you have such a big heart, you stepped in to make a difference. 

Even though Spirit Week 2020 felt a little different (okay, A LOT different) than past ones, you still helped make it incredibly impactful. You helped recruit new riders, raised much-needed funds during the 24-hour fundraising challenge, celebrated Virtual Kick Off, performed a bike safety check and wore your Ride Gear all in support of our mission. 

So, thank you. 

It means the world to us to have your support. We will never stop until we end cancer. And it feels pretty amazing to have you right there by our side. 

If you’re looking for another way to get ready for the 25th Ride for Roswell, check out our 25 things to do from home to get ready for the Ride. 


Brain Tumor Vaccine SurVaxM On Path to Next Clinical Trial Under New Licensing Deal

“If it weren’t for SurVaxM, I never would have met three of my four grandchildren.”

In June 2016, John woke up in the middle of the night in convulsions from a seizure. After EMTs rushed the 66-year-old husband, father and grandfather to a Syracuse hospital, doctors discovered a tumor in his brain. He had glioblastoma, a brain cancer that has poor prognosis and few treatment options. Average life expectancy is 15 months after diagnosis.

Luckily for John, something critical was happening just a few hours west at Roswell Park, thanks to support from donors like you. The SurVaxM vaccine had begun its phase 2 clinical trial for newly diagnosed patients. After surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, he found out he qualified for the trial. His son and family lived in Buffalo, so each trip meant he got to spend time with them. And he desperately wanted more time.

That was three and a half years ago. Now, in early 2020, John just got back from a trip to Aruba with his wife. He exercises four times a week and will be visiting his grandchildren again soon.

John credits the donor-funded SurVaxM trial with every precious minute of this extra time. 

A New Phase

Now many more glioblastoma patients around the world will have the same chance John did.

An agreement between MimiVax LLC and Chinese healthcare group Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co., Ltd., will enable further development of SurVaxM for patients in the U.S. and China. MimiVax is a Roswell Park spinoff founded in 2012 by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and Director of the Neuro-Oncology Program at Roswell Park, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery, to develop SurVaxM and other immunotherapies. It is developing SurVaxM based on technology originally developed through donations and licensed from Roswell Park.

SurVaxM is a vaccine that kills cancer cells by targeting a protein called survivin, which is prevalent in the cells of glioblastoma and many other cancers as well. “SurVaxM puts cancer cells in a Catch-22,” says Dr. Fenstermaker. “After vaccination, the immune system kills tumor cells that express survivin. If the tumor cells turn survivin off to escape the vaccine, they stop growing and become more susceptible to chemotherapy.” The vaccine is given to clinical trial participants in conjunction with standard chemotherapy.

What's Next?

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co., Ltd., and MimiVax will pursue clinical development of SurVaxM for patients in the U.S. and select territories in China. Initial support from Fosun will enable and partially fund the upcoming pivotal clinical trials in both the U.S. and China.

Based upon positive results from initial phase 1 and phase 2 studies, the team expects to advance to a large, multicenter randomized phase 2 trial in the coming year. The previous phase 2 study of 63 patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma has demonstrated significantly longer survival time for patients treated with SurVaxM, with 93.5% alive a year after diagnosis, compared with expected 65% survival based on historical studies. John was part of that phase 2 study.

Donor support has been critical in SurVaxM’s development and progress from the very beginning. “We’re so grateful for the community’s generous and enthusiastic support of this work,” says Dr. Fenstermaker. “The initial laboratory investigations that paved the way to where we are now would not have been possible without donor support.” 

Hope for other cancers

Because of the success of the early phase studies, additional clinical trials of SurVaxM for multiple myeloma and neuroendocrine tumors are underway at Roswell Park. A pediatric and high grade glioma trial is also under development. Because survivin is present in other cancers as well, there may be more opportunities for treatment.

Patients like John have continued hope for more time thanks to generous giving to Roswell Park.

“Since I’ve been on SurVaxM, I’ve had three new grandchildren, and there’s another boy on the way,” John says. “I hope it will help extend others’ lives or cure them. So far it’s extended mine probably more than two years over what it would have been if I hadn’t come to Roswell.”

Learn more about the SurVaxM agreement here.