Out-of-the-box fundraising: Check out Ellen’s story

Sign that says, "All proceeds go to Ride for Roswell"

Out-of-the-box fundraising: Check out Ellen’s story

Ellen and her family gather around a branded sign at the Ride for Roswell.
Table of goods at Ellen's garage sale. There is camping gear, tools, and a beer cooler.

Hitting your fundraising goal can seem difficult, especially if you haven’t fundraised before. While Facebook is one great tool to spread the word and rally people, it’s not the only way — just ask Extra Mile Club member Ellen Geitter.

Ellen has been participating in the Ride for Roswell for nearly a decade. In recent years, she has been joined by her sisters — Mary, Megan and Karen — and two nieces. The Ride is their way of honoring their mother who passed away from small cell adenocarcinoma, an aggressive lung cancer. Through clinical trials at Roswell Park, their mom turned a two-year prognosis into eight years, and the sisters feel strongly about giving back in her memory. This year, Ellen her family will be Riding Their Own Way along a thirty-mile route between Utica and Rome, NY, on the Erie Canal.

Ellen had already raised more than $1,200 for Roswell Park, but with the weather warming up, she saw an opportunity to do even more in the fight to end cancer. She and her sisters sifted through tons of items, and Ellen asked herself, ‘What do I need? What don’t I need?’ They ended up with a lawn full of treasures and the idea of donating all the profits to the Ride for Roswell.

“I’m a blessed person, and I want to pass that along. If this can be in service of that and move me along, then it’s worth it,” Ellen says.

At the end of the weekend, Ellen and her family raised more than $3,300 from their garage sale. How are you fundraising to end cancer this summer? Let us know on social media!

Featured Team: Cycling for Sue

Why does your team ride in the Ride for Roswell?

2019 was Team Cycling for Sue’s first year riding. The previous fall after only five months we lost my wife Sue and my children Kody and Teal’s mom to the horrible disease of lung cancer. My brother Jeff suggested to me that we ride in her memory. It was and still is a very emotional event to participate in as all the memories of her come flooding back. While originally riding for her, hence the name Cycling for Sue, since then we have lost a number of friends and family to some type of cancer and it has opened up our eyes to see how so many are effected by Cancer. While the team is still Cycling for Sue, we ride in memory of all those that we have lost and for those that are fighting to survive.

What does leading a team mean to you?

Leading the Cycling for Sue team gives me comfort that quite possibly the funds we raise might save someone’s life and have someone advert the loss of a loved one. Sue was about helping others. Whether it was with a meal, a friendly call or a shoulder to cry on she was always there for others. I know she is looking down on us and smiling for all that we are doing for others.

               

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

My favorite part of the Ride Weekend is that it gets so many people together for such a great cause. While tears flow with the memories the ride also teaches us that so many are helped at Roswell and that it is Roswell that gives someone the chance to ring the bell!

Sam Accordino: Riding His Own Way in Alaska

Sam Accordino:
Riding His Own Way in Alaska

Cancer impacts every one of us, but for Sam Accordino, that six-letter word has irrevocably shaped his life.

Sam’s daughter Casey was always strong-willed. The oldest of three, she took the lead in all things involving her younger brothers, Nick and Max. She proudly donned mismatched socks and loved watching her favorite sports teams, especially the Bills, Sabres and Bisons. She was outspoken yet honest. As a kid, she managed to get caught by her parents every time she skipped school. As a young adult, she worked as a social worker and gave selflessly to others, bringing hope to those around her.

“She came into the world screaming, and she ruled the roost,” Sam says. “She really was a fun-loving kid — a giving, caring and wonderful person.”

Even as she battled cancer, Casey sought ways to uplift others, joining groups at Roswell Park like the Young Adult Cancer Program and making friends with nurses and patients alike. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013 and underwent surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation at Roswell Park. She entered remission. Thinking she had it beat, she looked forward to the next phase of her life and marked the occasion by marrying her best friend, Kevin.

But cancer had its own plans. In October 2017, Casey’s cancer returned, much more aggressive this time. At the same time, her mother was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Sam's Reason(s) Why

Sam’s daughter will always be his first and foremost reason why — the driving force behind his desire to end cancer. Casey’s journey isn’t the only one that’s impacted Sam, though. His 94-year-old mother survived both breast and ovarian cancer, and Sam recently learned that he has prostate cancer. Sam’s wife, Annette, discovered that she had carcinoma and went through treatment at the same time as Casey. Annette and Casey alternated rounds of chemo so they could care for one another, though they occasionally shared a room and an IV stand.

After additional surgeries and rounds of chemo, Casey passed away on October 27, 2018, three weeks after her 32nd birthday.

On top of everything else, Annette also learned that she has the BRCA2 gene — the gene that carries a high risk of developing breast cancer. As a preventative measure, Annette underwent a double mastectomy. The couple is trying to get ahead of cancer any way they can.

“I’ve had heartache, and I’ve had successes,” Sam says. “I wish the outcome would’ve been different for Casey, but unfortunately that’s how life is. Cancer affects a lot of people.”

Fighting Back

One of the ways Sam is working to get ahead of cancer is by participating in the Ride for Roswell. His goal is two-fold: honor Casey and work toward a world where fewer people have to say goodbye because of cancer. He’s doing that by riding and fundraising for Roswell Park, the institution that supported his family during some of their most difficult days.

“A lot of people don’t know about the numerous services Roswell Park offers like pastoral care, wellness activities or grieving sessions,” Sam says. “We still get together with some of the people we’ve met through Roswell.”

Sam aimed to raise $5,000 dollars toward cancer research, a milestone he’s already exceeded. The achievement will be rewarded with an engraved brick in Kaminski Park. He will dedicate that brick to Casey and her unwavering strength.

Riding in Alaska

When Sam decided to participate in the Ride for Roswell this year, he wasn’t sure how to make it work. The event takes place on June 25, the same day he planned to be on the other side of the continent. For the past three years, he and his wife had been trying to get away to Alaska, but the trip kept getting postponed due to family conflicts and the ongoing pandemic. The pair finally booked their vacation — on the same day as the Ride. That wasn’t going to stop Sam.

With the Ride Your Own Way option, Sam can participate in the Ride for Roswell from Anchorage, Alaska. His game plan is ambitious: He’ll ride in the Peloton during Celebration of Hope on Friday, June 24, at the University at Buffalo, hop on a plane Saturday morning and rent a bike as soon as he lands. Sunday morning, he’ll set off on the Tony Knowles trail, an 11-mile path along the coast of Anchorage that passes forests, vistas, earthquake fault lines and Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak.

“I plan on doing the whole 22 miles unless a moose gets in my way, which is a real possibility,” Sam says, laughing. “It’s going to be a cool adventure.”

When he finishes his ride, Sam plans to celebrate with his wife and friends while remembering Casey, his strong-willed daughter who loved her family, husband Kevin and dog Charlie, and fought with everything she had.  

Ride Your Own Way like Sam or join the Ride for Roswell in person on June 25.

Featured Team: Team Skoden

For Whitney Ann Henry, forming a Ride for Roswell team marked the realization of a goal she set nearly two years ago. Along with her coworker and team co-captain, Josie Raphaelito, Team Skoden came to fruition. Skoden is a slang term used in the Indigenous community to mean “Let’s go then!” or “Let’s get after it.” The name aligns perfectly with their goal to support their department: the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research (CICR) at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Whitney Ann, the Indigenous patient navigation coordinator, and Josie, a research project coordinator, are both passionate about furthering the CICR’s mission of reducing cancer’s impact on Indigenous communities. They are also committed to bringing awareness within the Indigenous community of the resources available through the CICR.

CICR - Center for Indigenous Cancer Research Team

CICR Resources

A few examples include:

  • Colorectal cancer screening education classes
  • The Indigenous and Rural Patient Navigation Program: a free, non-clinical service for cancer care
  • Student internships
  • The Native CIRCLE Library, a virtual hub for culturally appropriate health education materials for Indigenous communities, scholars, researchers and educators
  • The Talking Circle, a podcast that focuses on Indigenous health and wellness
  • The Talking Circle webinar series featuring health and wellness experts and topics that are most important to Indigenous communities. Check for upcoming webinars or catch up on previous topics, including April’s talk featuring David R. Wilson, PhD, Director of Tribal Health Research Office, who discussed his work with building a unified presence between the National Institutes of Health and tribal leaders across the nation.

    Watch the webinars.

About Team Skoden

Whitney Ann and Josie have opted to have the funds they raise for the Ride for Roswell directly benefit the CICR to continue these efforts and advance the critical research and community services that will reduce the cancer burden within Indigenous communities. Cancer is one of the top leading causes of death for Native Americans in Western New York, so the work done through the CICR is critical.

Team Skoden has grown to include 14 riders with a goal to collectively raise $10,000 through the Ride for Roswell. Together, the team looks forward to joining thousands of other riders committed to making a positive impact.

“I’m riding for my whole reservation,” Whitney Ann says. “We always have Indigenous communities in mind, and we do it for them.”

Join Team Skoden or create your own team for the Ride! No team is too big or too small to make a meaningful difference.

 

 

The Draudt brothers fight back

The Draudt brothers fight back

For brothers Adam and Dan Draudt, participating in the Ride for Roswell comes down to one word: hope. They’ve seen the impact Roswell Park has in the lives of cancer patients and know firsthand how cancer can turn lives upside down. To the Draudt brothers, Roswell Park helps cancer patients fight back, giving them hope for a better tomorrow.

In 2021, Adam was told he had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that causes bones to weaken. Luckily, doctors caught Adam’s cancer early, and he was able to fight back through stem cell treatments and chemotherapy. As of February, he is fully in remission. The diagnosis, however, flipped Adam and his family’s world around.

“It could happen to any of us,” Dan says. “I never would’ve thought it would happen to my brother, but here we are.”

While Adam was undergoing treatment, Dan sought out a way to take action for cancer patients like his brother. He signed up for the Ride for Roswell, wanting to make an impact for future generations. With Adam’s help, they raised more than $34,000 for cancer research! This year, they’re celebrating Adam’s remission by fundraising again.

“The funding that they get from Ride helps people like me go from a [cancer] diagnosis in June to full remission in November,” Adam says. “As a survivor, I see how the funding helps people behind the scenes at Roswell Park make advances they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

 

Everyone’s cancer journey differs, but for the Draudt brothers, hope keeps them working toward a world where we end cancer for good. Adam also has a little advice for anyone who might be hesitant to sign up for this year’s Ride:

“Go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose. Even if you don’t finish, you still raised money that’s going to help so many people in the future,” he says.

Check out Adam and Dan’s team, MADaboutcancer, and register for the Ride for Roswell today.

Riding to set the stage for the future of cancer treatment

At Roswell Park, we’re continuously looking to the future — to new data and findings, game-changing discoveries and the best available treatment options for our patients. The funds brought in through the Ride for Roswell are dedicated toward pursuing not only innovative researchers and clinicians, but also top technology and facilities.

Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD, serves as Deputy Director, The Katherine Anne Gioia Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Immunology. He joined the Roswell Park team in 2021 and is already making plans to expand what Roswell Park can do for our patients.

Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist in lab
Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist in lab

Looking to the future

Dr. Brentjens’ plans are centered around cellular therapies. This type of treatment is a type of immunotherapy which uses reengineered cells to help a patient’s immune system identify and attack cancer cells.

He currently has his sights on two clinical trials, which will improve CAR T-cell therapy for lymphomas and for other B-cell cancers. Those trials are in very early stages, but it takes forward thinking and thoughtful planning to bring about changes this groundbreaking.

This work would not be possible without donor support. Thanks to riders like you and the donors who support your Ride, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation was able to promise the necessary funding for each of those two trials and an additional third trial that will focus on multiple types of solid tumor cancers such as breast and colon cancers.

“Part of the trials lies in the preparation,” Dr. Brentjens said. “You have to first build the foundation before you can build the house, and that’s what this is.”

Building the foundation

Roswell Park has done incredible work using redirected CAR T-cells in research and patient care, exploring its potential and innovating its uses. Its facilities, however, have not previously had the infrastructure to create their own CAR T-cells. Donor funding will be invested into installing the platform and equipment necessary to bring this side of the work in-house.

Setting the stage for Dr. Brentjens’ upcoming trials will not only advance these particular projects, but it will also help this whole area of investigation surge forward right here in Buffalo. This expansion will expedite research and more efficiently bring about new trials and therefore new treatment options for the patients who turn to Roswell Park for hope.

“The foundation that we lay now will help us more rapidly open the subsequent trials,” Dr. Brentjens said. “Everything that we’re doing now is to gear up our institution, our facility, to run those trials.”

Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist
Dr. Renier Brentjens

Taking it to the next step

“Roswell Park donors in the WNY area — and outside the WNY area — have made it possible for me to do this work,” Dr. Brentjens said. He also credits the forward thinking of Roswell Park’s leadership and his predecessors with preparing the way for continual advancement, particularly in the realm of cellular therapies. “At best there is a handful of institutions that are equally well set to move this technology forward, which was a remarkable discovery for me when I first came.”

On the topic of moving the technology forward, it is no secret that Dr. Brentjens is laser focused on drastically expanding the number of patients and the types of cancer Roswell Park can impact through cellular therapies. Though the initial trials coming down the pipeline will improve upon options for patients with lymphoma and B-cell cancers, he is eager to advance this technology to be available to patients with solid tumors, as well.

With the passionate drive of our researchers and the sustained dedication of our donors, these advances are just around the corner. Roswell Park continues to urgently seek the next and best options for our loved ones and neighbors battling cancers of all kinds.

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

Meet Cheryl Reinhardt: The 2022 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter

Cheryl's story.

Six months. That’s how long Cheryl Reinhardt’s doctor said she had left to live after diagnosing her with stage 4 ovarian cancer. The news took Cheryl back to the 1980s when her mom received the same exact diagnosis and passed away a week later. Cheryl assumed the worst — until her doctor referred her to Roswell Park. “I went down to the deepest depths, and all of a sudden I was lifted back up, because somebody at Roswell said, ‘Oh look — there’s sunshine. We’re not giving up.’ And they never gave up,” Cheryl says. That was in 2004.
Cheryl poses with partner

Eighteen years later.

Cheryl laughs

Eighteen years later, Cheryl’s still delighting in everything this life has to offer. That includes cooking, scrapbooking, trips to Disney World and exploring everything in Buffalo. She’s an adventurer and laugh enthusiast whose smile lights up the room.

(See? We told you!)

Cheryl has also been a proud supporter of the Ride for Roswell for 17 years alongside her wife, Barb (pictured with Cheryl above). All of this and more make Cheryl the perfect person to represent cancer patients and light the torch at the 2022 Celebration of Hope on Friday, June 24.

“I feel like I just climbed the biggest mountain. I have had cancer for 18 years, and I was happy to carry the flag, but to carry the torch — to light the torch — that’s like winning an Oscar. It’s the highest honor.”

Lighting the way.

Being the torch lighter is an honor that Cheryl’s ready to take on. She was already getting active in preparation for Ride Day on June 25. Now, she’s also lifting weights to build arm strength and perfecting her pose.

“I want to light that torch to say, ‘We’re going to light our way out of this ugliness. And we’re going be stronger than we were before.’”

Cheryl believes there will come a day when the word cancer isn’t quite so scary. She has seen firsthand what Roswell Park can do for patients and how far treatment has advanced over the last decades. At each phase of her 18-year cancer journey, she was offered a treatment option or clinical trial. These treatment options and clinical trials were available to Cheryl because of the advances in research that donations to the Ride have made possible.

Cheryl gives fist pump

Sometimes, Cheryl’s journey wasn’t easy. There were times when she was too sick to do her favorite things or when her immune system was too weak to be around people. But all of that brought Cheryl to where she is today. Now, she’s passionate about fundraising for the Ride to advance the research that has helped her.

“The Ride for Roswell means a lot to me, because I want them to continue their success,” Cheryl says. “They have already proven that they can do it, but we need to save more people. We can’t do that without funds.”

Team Fran's Angels.

Cheryl smiling

Named in honor of Cheryl’s mother, Team Fran’s Angels (of which both Cheryl and Barb are a part) has already started working toward a fundraising goal of $25,000. Visit the team page here.

Cheryl and Barb both hope to see you on Ride weekend, and Cheryl also has a little advice for first-time riders:

“Be prepared to be embraced with love! Eventually, you’ll know everyone at the Ride.”

Contact.

Office address.

Elm and Carlton Streets
Buffalo, NY 14263

Phone number.

716-THE-RIDE
716-843-7433

Proceeds directly benefit: