First-time rider’s guide to the Ride

First-time rider’s guide to the Ride

Welcome to the Ride Community! With Ride Weekend fast approaching, this is a look at everything you can expect as a first-time rider.

Rider at Ride for Roswell giving a thumbs up

Did you know the Ride is a two-day event?

There are two key pieces to Ride Weekend: Celebration of Hope and, of course, Ride Day.

Celebration of Hope

Friday, June 21

Celebration of Hope is an impactful event that kicks off Ride for Roswell. The mission-based program, which takes place the Friday night before Ride Day, includes the parade of teams, the Peloton and the ceremonial lighting of the torch.

Ride Day

Saturday, June 22

Ride Day is what you probably picture when you hear, “Ride for Roswell.” Thousands of cyclists ride in one of the nine routes, ranging from 4 to 100 miles. All routes (other than Canada) begin and end at UB’s North Campus, and there’s fun for the whole family! Invite your loved ones to cheer you on, shop local at the Ride’s vendor village and enjoy lunch in the meal tent.

First and foremost, Ride for Roswell is a fundraiser.

Funds raised through Ride for Roswell benefit research and clinical trials at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. It’s important each rider does their part in the mission to end cancer. Imagine the difference we can make when we all come together for such an incredible cause. If you’ve never fundraised before, no worries! We’re here to help.

Get 3!

Did you know that every minute, three people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer? This year, we want every rider to secure at least three donations. Learn more about the Get 3 campaign here.

Getting Started

We know getting started with your fundraising can be intimidating, so we’ve laid out several tools, tips and tricks you can use to maximize your impact. Check out the tools to kick-start your fundraising.  

And … the more you raise, the more you earn!

The Ride Community welcomes you with open arms, and we can’t wait to celebrate together on Ride Weekend.

Meet some of the riders who will be joining you on Ride Weekend:

Still have questions? Feel free to call our team at 716-843-7433 or email us at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org.

Anita Jones: Two decades of Ride for Roswell

Anita Jones: Two decades of Ride for Roswell

Anita Jones is what we like to call a fundraising ‘go-getter.’ She knows Ride for Roswell isn’t just about Ride Day, but rather what we can accomplish when we come together with a shared mission of ending cancer. She’s gained perspective of the difference the dollars can make at her first Ride for Roswell 21 years ago, and she’s been hooked ever since.

Anita Jones at Ride for Roswell

Getting Involved in the Mission to End Cancer

Anita Jones at Ride for Roswell

Anita has participated in the Ride every year for more than two decades. Even when an injury prevented her from riding, she still raised funds for the cause. She reflected on what got her involved initially.  

“I was working for a State Farm agent, and at the time his father was going through cancer. So, he formed a team. I love to ride my bike anyway, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’m all for it!’ and I’ve never stopped.”

After crossing the finish line for the first time, she knew the experience would stick with her. To this day, that is still one of her favorite parts of Ride Weekend. As she recruits new riders to the cause, she tells them about that impactful moment.

“I say, at the end, you may get emotional because you’re looking at all the names that are on the road that are written down. Either they’re survivors or in memory of someone. Then at the finish line, everybody’s ringing the bells and sometimes you might see a patient who is without their hair or you see little kids and you can’t help but get welled up with emotion because they’re saying thank you, and I’m thinking this is the least I can do, ride my bike. It is nowhere in comparison to what you’re going through.”

Fundraising for the Cause

Every year, people in Anita’s life know the request for a donation is coming. She believes people appreciate her dedication year after year, and some even reach out to her before she has a chance to solicit.

“I’m a Roswell Park supporter for life. It’s just something that I do, and people know that. When they see me, they’re like, ‘Are you doing the Ride again this year?’ I’m like, ‘You betcha! I’m there.”

Her advice to other fundraisers: Don’t be afraid to ask.

She utilizes Facebook and Instagram to garner donations, and she goes through all the contacts on her phone to see who might be able to support her efforts.

 “If they don’t, that’s fine. I say, ‘Please say a prayer for me on the day of the Ride.’”

Anita has raised more than $17,000 through the Ride, and this year alone, she’s striving for $5,000.

“It’s still not enough until cancer is one of those things that we don’t have to worry about anymore.”

Anita holding an Extra Mile Club sign
Anita walking in the procession at Celebration of Hope

Finding Purpose through the Ride

Anita at a tour during Ride for Roswell Kickoff
Anita at Ride for Roswell

The more Anita learns about the impact of the Ride, the deeper she dives into the movement. This Ride Season, she attended Ride Kickoff, which was held at Roswell Park for the first time.

“I went through the tour and it just blew my mind. The research that Roswell Park does — it never ceases to amaze me. Everybody is so invested and it’s one of those things that you can’t help but care. You can’t help but invest your time because it means so much to so many.”

She says the Ride has become much more than a summer tradition, but something that truly is a part of who she is as a person.

“This is something that has become one of my missions in life. Everybody tries to think of, why? What’s your purpose? Why are you here? I always think my purpose is to motivate people. If I can motivate people to contribute, whether they like me personally or whether they just get behind the cause, I think that’s part of my life’s mission.”

When asked how long she plans to participate in the Ride, Anita didn’t hesitate.

“As long as God enables me to be healthy, if I can ride, I’ll ride. When it comes to a time when I can’t ride anymore, I’m going to volunteer. I’m going to do something with Roswell Park,” she added. “It’s just a great cause, a great mission. I hope one day we can say, ‘Cancer? What is that?”

 

How Vanette Notaro leads her workplace Ride team

How Vanette Notaro leads her workplace Ride team

Vanette Notaro prepares for Ride Weekend all year. She’s been a longtime supporter of Roswell Park through her role as regional saleswoman for Cumulus Media, the parent company for radio stations 97 Rock, Classic Hits 104.1 and 103.3 The Edge.

“I’ve been with the radio station for 30 years and around 20 years ago we started working directly with Roswell Park in regards to the Ride,” said Vanette.

Her passion for the cause has never wavered, and she understands the mission both on a big-picture and personal level. Part of her motivation comes from her own experiences as a patient at Roswell Park, since Vanette has been living with cancer since 2003.

Vanette Notaro at Ride for Roswell.

Vanette’s Cancer Journey

In 2003, Vanette learned she had non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma. Her children were one and three years old at the time.

“When I was first diagnosed, I was devastated, and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t realize that there were so many different things I could do to feel good and live a great, healthy life.”

Even though her cancer is something she will always live with, Vanette describes it as manageable — thanks to a treatment that was cutting-edge when she was diagnosed.

“I did a therapy back then that was really new. It was called Rituxan, and nowadays they do this all the time with patients, but this is why we do the Ride because it helps with new treatment options. And even though it was 20 years ago when I was doing Rituxan, now there are new therapies. Without the Ride, this couldn’t happen.”

Vanette visits Roswell Park for bloodwork and CAT scans regularly. She explained, because of Rituxan and the minimal side effects she’s experienced, many people wouldn’t know right away that she has cancer. The drug has helped her maintain normalcy.

That normalcy, and maybe one day a cure, is what she wants for all patients, including her late mother Elaine Tybor and friend David Berndt who both lost their lives to cancer.

“I wish there was a way to find out how to stop it, but at least we still can find a way to cure it.”

Motivating Team Cumulus at Ride for Roswell

Cumulus Media is not only a sponsor at Ride for Roswell, but also an active team led by Vanette. In 2023 alone, the three teams that are a part of Cumulus Media raised around $40,000. In 2024, they’re aiming for $50,000.

Vanette says what works for them is that their radio personalities and staff are all individually passionate about the mission.

“I also see a lot of new people every year, because every year someone is touched with cancer in a different way, whether it’s their mom or their sibling or their cousin. I feel like everyone has a story, whether they’re riding or they’re volunteering.”

Encouraging some fun workplace competition has also proven to be a great motivator for fundraising. For example, in recent years, 97 Rock103.3 The Edge and Classic Hits 104.1 have created individual station teams and incentivized which station could raise the most funds for Roswell Park.

“We kind of do an in-house competition with all the radio stations. We give all of the riders their own team shirts and they all are in a contest to win a gift card for $1,000 for a new bike.”

Vanette explained all three team leaders have been affected by cancer, so they’re personally motivated as well. Additionally, due to the nature of working in radio, they use their platforms to share stories related to the cause and let people know about the Ride.

“The listeners want to be a part of it. It’s like their own little families on each radio station.”

Team Cumulus at Ride for Roswell
Team Cumulus at Ride for Roswell
Team Cumulus at Ride for Roswell

What’s Kept Vanette Coming Back to the Ride

Vanette with 97 Rock at Ride for Roswell

Leading a large team can take hard work, but Vanette laughs that she doesn’t get tired — only excited.

“I think whether I was a patient or not, I would still be excited to be a part of this. It makes me really proud because this is one of Buffalo’s biggest events and also one of Cumulus’ biggest events. It’s important to all of us.”

In her role, she is on stage with the radio personalities at the start line for each ride. Cheering on each wave of riders is her favorite part.

“Seeing the people who really care, seeing the cancer survivors. When you’re at the start line and they ask you to raise your hand, it’s really emotional.”

She also likes connecting with other patients and survivors throughout Ride Weekend.

“It makes me feel like that was the reason why I was there at the Ride: to help other people like me.”

When asked how to describe the Ride to someone who has never experienced it before, Vanette didn’t hesitate. “It’s hope.”

She added, “You see all the people coming together, all these strangers, and it’s just an experience. Everyone laughing and maybe even crying because they lost someone, but it brings everyone together, and there’s not a lot of events that can do that.”

Why Get Your Workplace Involved in the Mission to End Cancer?

Creating a team at Ride for Roswell is easy and worthwhile.

Vanette’s advice for someone looking to get their company or organization involved in the Ride is to make sure you have a few leaders who are driven to leave a lasting impact for the cause.

She added, “Cancer doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about age. It doesn’t care about your family or friends. Everyone has been affected. It can change someone’s life in an instant. The chances that people at your work are being affected is huge, unfortunately, and that gives them a passion to start this team. Friends and family will jump on to help support those people.”

Not only can doing the Ride alongside coworkers be great for workplace morale, but together you’re also making a difference for cancer patients everywhere.

“There’s a need for new treatment options that can actually save people’s lives. These therapies can provide cutting-edge treatment choices for patients, which we need and it’s important.”

Vanette and her sons

Vanette has experienced the impact firsthand as a longtime cancer patient, who 20 years ago, didn’t think she’d be here in 2024, now advocating for others living with these diseases. She is, and that’s what keeps her motivated to return each year, rally her colleagues and contribute the best way she knows how to the mission to end cancer. 

2024 Team Tents

Team Tents

We are so excited to be able to gather once again at UB after a long day of riding at Ride for Roswell. There really is nothing better than celebrating crossing that finish line with family and friends!

The following options are available to accommodate your team at UB:

Team Tent photo from Ride for Roswell

Rent a Team Tent:

  • 10×10 tent with 1 table and 6 chairs – cost $310
  • 15×15 tent with 2 tables and 10 chairs – cost $375
  • 20×20 tent with 2 tables and 10 chairs – cost $475

Bring Your Own Tent:

  • Limited spots available at no cost​

Team Tent Rentals

  • Rented team tents can be accessed for set up and decorating on Friday, June 21 from 12-4 p.m., or Saturday, June 22 from 6-9 a.m. 
  • Volunteers will be available on Saturday only from 6-9 a.m. to assist you with transporting your items to your tent location. 

BYO Tents

  • BYO tent spots will be accessible for set-up on Friday, June 21 from 12-4 p.m., or Saturday, June 22 from 6-9 a.m.  Vehicles that are remaining parked must be in place no later than 9 a.m.
  • Volunteers will be on hand to direct you to a designated spot.
  • Specific instructions, along with a map of the tent location, will be sent to the email address provided after June 1. All teams will be responsible for set-up and take-down of all supplies.
  • No personal grills are to be brought or used at the event.
  • Limit of one (1) vehicle per team.
  • Limit of one (1) pop-up tent per team. Maximum size: 15’x15’. You must bring sandbags, weights or standard size tent stakes to secure your tent.
  • THIRD PARTY TENTS NOT ALLOWED. Please contact Ride for Roswell if you would like to rent a tent. 
  • All tents MUST comply with NYS Fire Code 24.04 and will have a tag affixed certifying treatment for flame resistance. Non-compliant tents will be removed at the discretion of the UB office of Environment Health and Safety. 

How to raise $1,500 by Ride Day

How to raise $1,500 by Ride Day

Ride for Roswell is still a few months away, and there is still plenty of time to maximize your impact. We have some ideas to help you hit $1,500 (making you a member of the Extra Mile Club) in time for Ride Weekend.

This is a photo for the Ride letters and flags at Ride for Roswell.

Attend a Beers & Gears event

Rally your friends and family for Ride for Roswell’s happy hour series: Beers & Gears. The cost for most happy hours is $20, which will get you two drink tickets. The full $20 will then be credited to the rider’s fundraising page of your choice (yes, it can be your own). The more people you bring, the more you will raise!

Get 3!

Did you know that every minute, three people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer? Changing lives for cancer patients can be as easy as 1, 2, 3. This year, we want every rider to secure at least three donations. Here's how.

Host a team event.

Hold a team fundraiser! From a yard sale at a team member’s house where everyone can bring items to sell, to a potluck dinner where you charge guests a small fee to attend, the possibilities are endless. Post your event to your social media accounts to promote it!
Once your event is done, the funds raised can be turned in and divided evenly among the team members to count toward their fundraising pages.

Check out the new MyRFR app

Download the My RFR app to reach your fundraising goals even faster! The app will help you secure donations, track your progress toward your goal and it even has mobile check deposit. Learn more about the MyRFR app.

Lean on your strengths.

Use your unique gifts to make a positive impact. We encourage riders to personalize their fundraising strategy to their strengths and interests making the journey fun and rewarding in more ways than one. Love crafting? Consider selling your creations for the cause! Do you have a skill you can teach others? Host a lesson and put the proceeds toward your fundraising total! There are so many opportunities to align your passions with Ride for Roswell’s mission.

Get social!

Utilize social media as a tool to help you reach your fundraising goals. Share your fundraising page on all your social platforms to spread the word about your why, and encourage friends, family and coworkers to donate to your fundraising page. FYI: Funds from Instagram don’t always display in the Ride for Roswell dashboard. For info on Facebook/Instagram fundraising, click here. 

The rule of 10.

Make a list of 10 people, ask them to contribute $25 each, and you’ll be shocked at how quickly the dollars add up! That will get you up to $250, earning your first rewards! If you need a good place to start, here is an example.

Ask > 3 friends > 2 co-workers > 1 neighbor > 4 family members.

Find a community partner.

Visit local businesses and ask them about ways they can help you raise funds for your Ride. They may donate or offer you a space to promote your Ride.

Ask, ask, ask … and ask again.

So many people have been impacted cancer. Whether they’ve lost a loved one to cancer, know someone who is a survivor or are battling the disease themselves, people want to make a difference! The more you share what you’re doing, the more people will choose to donate. Kathy Caruso of Team ‘Otterly’ Phil says it best; “A penny or a pound, it's all forward motion.”

Still need help? Feel free to call us at 716-843-7433 or email us at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org. Our in-house fundraising experts can offer additional guidance!

Meet Ride for Roswell’s 2024 Torch Lighter: Kelly Englert Flak

Meet Ride for Roswell’s 2024 Torch Lighter:

Kelly Englert Flak

2024 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter, Kelly Englert Flak

Cancer has carved its way into many areas of Kelly Englert Flak’s life. She is a cancer survivor, a grieving mother who lost her daughter to this disease and a Roswell Park employee who has dedicated her career to serving patients. Still, Kelly stands by this notion: “Cancer can’t win.”

We gather at Ride for Roswell every year to stand in solidarity with patients, celebrate survivors and remember those we’ve lost. But, at the forefront, we ride with a mission to end cancer. Kelly lives that mission every day. Her unwavering hope and commitment to a better tomorrow are just some of the many reasons she was selected as this year’s Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter. 

She received dozens of nominations from family members, friends and colleagues. 

  • "Kelly is the most selfless person I know, putting herself last before helping others.”
  • “It’s not easy seeing what this disease does to many, but Kelly gives hope, love and support so that others don’t have to fight alone."
  • “She lives the Roswell Park mission all day, every day.”
  • “Kelly exemplifies hope in everything she does. Through all of this, she perseveres and is the glue that holds us all together.”
Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter Kelly Englert Flak in the Elevate Salon
Kelly and Kendall Flak

“The Mayor of Roswell”

Kelly, RN, MSN, OCN, began her career at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2007. She moved her way up from a staff nurse in the intensive care unit to the clinical nurse manager in the gynecology clinic.

“I absolutely love coming to work. A lot of people can’t say that about their job. I have a passion for what I do and a passion for my patients. I like knowing that I can make a difference,” said Kelly.

Kelly’s youngest daughter Kendall now works at Roswell Park as well. The two often meet for lunch when their shifts align.  

“Kendall calls me the ‘Mayor of Roswell,’” Kelly laughed. “It’s just because I have been on so many paths on my journey as an employee.”

Working at Roswell Park is what makes Kelly, Kelly, even as she battles stage 4 lung cancer.

“I worked for eight months on the floor with a chest tube in. I have to. This is my sense of normalcy. This is where I can come and be Kelly, and not be a cancer patient.”

As Kelly fought cancer herself, she also took care of her late daughter Kaitland Sneed. Each step of the way, Kelly’s colleagues offered their compassion and support.

“I call them my coworkers, but they’re my family. They have taken care of me, and they’ve embraced Kaitland as part of our family.”

Diagnoses Months Apart

While working a night shift in the ICU, Kelly got a call from Kaitland’s husband. He explained Kaitland was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital after having a seizure. Kaitland, 29 years old and living in Pittsburgh at the time, had no symptoms prior. It didn’t take long for her to be diagnosed with grade 3 astrocytoma. Later, she would receive a second diagnosis: glioblastoma.

Only three months after Kaitland’s initial diagnosis, Kelly learned on July 22, 2020, that she had stage 4 lung cancer. The news came after living with what she thought was just “bad allergies” for more than a year. She saw her doctor with complaints of constant sneezing and coughing and they went on a pursuit to figure out the cause but wound up unsuccessful. So, Kelly learned to live with her discomfort while being redeployed to the ICU during the pandemic.

“When I found out, I just felt like my whole world came to an end, but I couldn’t because my daughter was on the same journey with me, and we continued on that journey together. We got each other through.”

Kaitland Sneed, Kelly's daughter
Kelly's family in the hospital with Kaitland
Kaitland and Kelly
Kelly's family photo

Fighting Cancer as Mother and Daughter

Kelly stayed in Pittsburgh for the first two months of Kaitland’s treatment. Once Kaitland started progressing, they created a rotating family schedule for visits so Kelly could continue to do her treatment in Buffalo.

“We called ourselves our cancer buddies because we kind of knew what each other was thinking. If we went to a bad place in our mind, I knew where she was at so I could pull her back out of there and vice versa or taking care of ourselves, remembering to do that. She would look at me and say, ‘Mom, you’re not getting enough rest. You don’t look good.’ Or I would say, ‘Kaitland, you’re pushing yourself too much.’”

Eventually, as Kaitland got sicker, Kelly brought her daughter home to Buffalo so she could continue treatment in a place they both trusted: Roswell Park.

Kaitland fought hard in the last months of life. She passed away in January of 2024, less than a month after her 32nd birthday.

By this point, Kelly’s lung cancer had spread to her brain amid her treatment plan of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. However, thanks to targeted therapy — an approach that was decided on after receiving a genetic test — Kelly is now in remission. At the top of her mind, is making sure Kaitland’s life is remembered.

“Kaitland was just a wonderful person, so energetic, so full of life. Her personality and her smile. She was just magnetic. You were just drawn to her. She was the kindest person there ever was. There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for anybody. She was my social butterfly,” Kelly explained with tears in her eyes.

“I want people to remember her name and I want people to know she fought, and she did not let cancer take from her, not even the last year. She fought, she persevered and she was Kaitland. She was not going to let cancer steal from her.”

Carrying on Kaitland’s Legacy Through the Ride

Back in 2020, Kelly’s family created a team at Ride for Roswell: Flak Pack Family and Friends. They used it not only as a way for loved ones to show their support for Kelly and Kaitland but also as a platform to reach others.

“It’s not just for the Ride. It’s also to help others who are on their cancer journey because one of our mottoes is nobody fights alone.”

Prior to creating Flak Pack, Kelly volunteered at the Ride as a nurse for many years. Her favorite part is the Peloton.

“I get goosebumps every time I see them ride in knowing that they’re riding for somebody and they’re riding for everybody and just the support that they bring. The whole evening is very emotional. Our family usually goes together and then when they light the torch, that’s the most exciting part. It’s like, ‘All right, let the Ride begin.”

The cause is obviously close to Kelly’s heart, for more reasons than one. But, above all else, she knows the importance of raising funds for cancer research.

This is a photo of the Ride for Roswell Torch.

“Without research, I wouldn't be here. Right now, I am on a medication that was only approved three years ago by the FDA. Three years ago, had I been at the beginning of my journey and had that mutation, I wouldn't be sitting here right now, and I wouldn't be lighting that torch this year. So, I am thankful to Roswell Park and its research and to everybody who helps donate and put money and funding toward that.”

Kelly Englert Flak, the 2024 Torch Lighter

As Kelly prepares to light the torch during this year’s Celebration of Hope, she laughs that she has “big shoes to fill.”

She’s honored to be a part of such an impactful moment, and when she sees the flame, she’ll know Kaitland will be, in some ways, still be right by her side rooting her on in the fight against this disease.

“I hope she’s looking down on me right now and I want her to be proud of me for continuing to bring cancer into the spotlight in a good way to say, ‘Hey, we can make these changes. And it takes all of us to make these changes and it’s for the better.”

10 Years of SurVaxM

10 Years of SurVaxM

In 10 short years, donor support helped bring a homegrown cancer-fighting discovery to the national stage in the form of a clinical trial. SurVaxM, a therapeutic cancer vaccine developed at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, has the potential to drastically extend the lives of patients living with brain cancer. You and your donors are part of that.

SurVaxM was created in a lab at Roswell Park by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery. Dr. Fenstermaker is the Principal Investigator of the nationwide randomized trial and Dr. Ciesielski is CEO of MimiVax, the company which now produces SurVaxM. Their work has been passionately supported by donor funding for the past 10 years, proving instrumental in bringing this new treatment to where it is today.

Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, with a sample of SurVaxM

2012

Roswell Park announces a new clinical research study that could put cancer cells “in a Catch-22.”

2013

A phase I clinical trial begins in human patients, supported by the American Cancer Society.

SurVaxM
SurVaxM lab image

2014

Roswell Park donors begin to financially support SurVaxM alongside the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through events like Ride for Roswell and more.

2015

Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski present their phase I clinical trial results to the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Phase II of the clinical trial begins, bringing hope to 50 newly diagnosed patients at Roswell Park and Cleveland Clinic.

Ciesielski and Fenstermaker in the lab
SurVaxM

2016

Experts investigate usefulness of SurVaxM for patients with multiple myeloma.

2017

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awards orphan drug status for SurVaxM. This designation is intended to encourage innovation in the treatment of rare diseases.

Dr. Ciesielski SurVaxM lab image
Ciesielski and Fenstermaker in the lab

2018

Findings through SurVaxM trials open doors for other types of treatments like CAR T-cell therapy and antibody-based therapies.

Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski join their colleagues at Cleveland Clinic to present their phase II findings so far at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Results from phase II clinical trial show significant success: well-tolerated; 96.7% of patients did not experience disease progression within the first six months; 94.2% of study participants were alive one year after their diagnosis, as opposed to 65% of patients in a historical comparison group.

2019

Trial leaders bring fully completed results to the ASCO Annual Meeting.

Roswell Park and MimiVax announce the next step forward: a larger scale phase II study and a licensing agreement.

SurVaxM lab image
Dr. Renuka Iyer

2020

Two new studies, led by Renuka Iyer, MD, of Roswell Park, explore the potential use of SurVaxM for patients with neuroendocrine tumors.

2022

SurVaxM

2023

The FDA grants Fast Track Designation for SurVaxM, opening doors to accelerated approval as late-stage clinical trials advance.

2024

You fundraise for Ride for Roswell, armed with the confidence that your hard work is propelling something meaningful on a national scale.

Want to learn more about your impact?

Contact our team at rideforroswell@roswellpark.org.

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.