Chris Eberle, an active light in the Ride’s legacy.
Ride Weekend evokes different feelings from each participant. For some, it’s action. For others, it’s remembrance. For many, it’s hope.
Nothing brings together all those emotions better than the Celebration of Hope, an event that wouldn’t have been possible without longtime volunteer and cancer survivor Chris Eberle.
The upcoming Ride for Roswell marks two milestones for Chris: 15 years of service and six years cancer free.
A partnership begins.
Chris first began her partnership with Roswell Park in the early-2000s when she owned a design and communications firm. She was brought on to help educate the public about what it meant to be a comprehensive cancer center and the important work being done at Roswell Park.
The more she learned, the more she wanted to get involved. Soon after, she started volunteering for the Ride. Chris served on the steering committee and brought her marketing expertise to the forefront.
“When I started, the Ride didn’t have a website yet. We developed the website and the ability to register online.”
As the Ride grew, Chris’s role evolved. For example, she played a pivotal role in turning the Ride into a two-day event.
“The Ride is always on Saturday. Then we thought that we really needed another component, so we decided to have an opening ceremony and it was in the University at Buffalo Stadium. It was a way to honor the researchers, clinicians, patients and survivors and nurses.”
That was in 2012. A few years later, with Chris’ leadership, the Friday night ceremony would see another evolution into what we now know as the Celebration of Hope.
The Ceremonial Torch.
“For my 10th anniversary with the Ride, I wanted to do something memorable, something to give back to the Ride.”
Chris was the visionary for the ceremonial torch, which debuted for the first time at the Celebration of Hope in 2017.
“The flame represents the patients and survivors. It represents the compassion of our nurses and our clinicians. And it represents the brilliance of our researchers.”
Chris explained the torch would serve as a kickoff to the Ride. Much like the Olympic torch, it would stay lit from Friday night until the last rider came in on Saturday.
“And we still do that to this day,” Chris said with a smile.
The Ride team and committee, including Chris, also developed the Peloton, a Friday night ride exclusively for Extra Mile Club (now Extra Mile Club Silver) members. That route starts at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and finishes at UB right before the commencement of the Celebration of Hope.
“The [Peloton riders] bring a little light from downtown and we light the torch with that light making the connection between Roswell Park and the Ride.”
That idea that Chris spearheaded remains the central focus of Ride Weekend. While she watched it come to fruition for the first time, its message resonated even more deeply than she could’ve imagined.
Chris’s cancer battle.
One week before the Ride’s inaugural year for torch lighting, Chris was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“The day we set up the torch for the first time was my first biopsy.”
Chris underwent a year of treatment including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
“It was grueling. You lose your hair, and I was told I was going to have one of the hardest chemotherapies. You just hope you make it through.”
As Chris was nearing the end of her treatment in 2018, she was honored as the Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter.
Chris lighting the same torch that she led the creation of just one year prior became a moment that reminds us all why the Ride matters: why we must continue to fight for more treatments, more research and more memories – like this one.
“It was relieving in a way to light the torch the next year because I thought, man, I made it. It was pretty amazing.”
Continuing the mission.
Shortly after the Ride in 2018, Chris rang the Victory Bell at Roswell Park, marking the end of a transformative chapter.
“I have to say, there are days that I don’t want to be reminded of my cancer, but I wouldn’t give up working for the Ride. Roswell Park saved my life.”
Message to other volunteers.
Chris’s influence on the Ride will be felt for generations to come. When asked what she would say to someone considering getting involved, she didn’t hesitate.
“Once you’ve experienced Ride weekend, you’ll never be the same. The passion, compassion and dedication of every participant, from riders, to survivors, clinicians, researchers and nurses is extraordinary. It is truly a rewarding experience to know that you are making a difference by volunteering in the fight to cure cancer.”
Chris will have another full-circle moment at the upcoming Ride. Volunteers from all of Roswell Park’s events will be invited to the 2023 Celebration of Hope, as a thank you for their dedication and commitment to the cause.
“We couldn’t raise as much as we do every year if we didn’t have all of the volunteers, and all of that money is going to save somebody in your family someday.”