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.”

Ride for Roswell boosts quality of life for cancer patients

Ride for Roswell boosts quality of life for cancer patients

At Roswell Park, we’re committed to improving cancer patients’ quality of life; caring for the whole person, not just treating their disease. Our work doesn’t end at medical treatment, but encompasses the mental, emotional and spiritual wellness of our patients, as well.

When you participate in or donate toward Ride for Roswell, you’re making it possible for Roswell Park experts to run Quality-of-Life Programs like these, and more!

HLA Typing

Before a patient receives a bone marrow transplant, they need to go through human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing to find a donor with the best genetic match. This process is not typically covered by health insurance when a patient needs to find a donor who is not a familial relative. Through a Quality-of-Life grant, made possible by the generosity of donations, patients have financial support through their HLA typing and transplant process.

This photo shows a cancer patient receiving treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Fertility Preservation Program for Young Adult Patients

When a young adult is battling cancer, it’s often their top priority and concern to eliminate the cancer. But cancer treatment or cancer itself can have a negative impact on a patient’s fertility or reproductive system. Through the Fertility Preservation Program, Roswell Park helps patients keep a hopeful eye on their futures and the possibilities that lie ahead. Through the generosity of donors, patients can speak with fertility experts to find the best solution for their life before treatment begins.

This is a photo of Elevate Salon at The 11 Day Power Play Resource Center at Roswell Park.

The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center and Elevate Salon

Going through cancer treatment can be one of the toughest times in a patient and their loved ones’ lives. Thankfully, donors fully fund The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center at Roswell Park to ease some of the stressors faced. There, patients and caregivers are greeted with warmth and compassion. They can access educational materials, comfort items and various resources to help them through their cancer journey. To accommodate for the growing patient population, Roswell Park also recently opened the Elevate Salon where experts help patients navigate hair loss. These essential spaces put patients’ needs first and allow for a safe place to take a deep breath and gather strength.

Creative Arts Team

Researchers at Roswell Park found that dedicated exposure to art improves patients’ hope and mental well-being and decreases their anxiety. The Art Heals Gallery, a curated space for patients and their loved ones to relax and immerse themselves in work by some of the area’s best artists, is fully supported by donations. The Creative Arts Team at Roswell Park is committed to providing not only incredible artwork for patients to enjoy, but art in which they can actively participate, as well, like art kits for inpatients, creative events and other experiences.

Transportation & Translation Services

Roswell Park is committed to giving patients the best possible care. If those patients can’t get to Roswell Park or have barriers to communication when they arrive, they can’t receive the care they need. Powered by donor funding, Roswell Park’s Transportation & Translation Services helps our patients access critical cancer care who might not be able to do so otherwise. There’s an increasing number of patients at Roswell Park who don’t have reliable transportation and a growing population of patients in need of translation support. Now more than ever it’s crucial to provide these services so everyone can have access to the best cancer care available to them.

This image shows a driver in a Roswell Park vehicle, one of the transportation services offered through our quality of life programs.

Ride for Roswell boosts quality of life for cancer patients

Ride for Roswell boosts quality of life for cancer patients

At Roswell Park, we’re committed to improving cancer patients’ quality of life; caring for the whole person, not just treating their disease. Our work doesn’t end at medical treatment, but encompasses the mental, emotional and spiritual wellness of our patients, as well.

When you participate in or donate toward Ride for Roswell, you’re making it possible for Roswell Park experts to run Quality-of-Life Programs like these, and more!

HLA Typing

Before a patient receives a bone marrow transplant, they need to go through human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing to find a donor with the best genetic match. This process is not typically covered by health insurance when a patient needs to find a donor who is not a familial relative. Through a Quality-of-Life grant, made possible by the generosity of donations, patients have financial support through their HLA typing and transplant process.

This photo shows a cancer patient receiving treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Fertility Preservation Program for Young Adult Patients

When a young adult is battling cancer, it’s often their top priority and concern to eliminate the cancer. But cancer treatment or cancer itself can have a negative impact on a patient’s fertility or reproductive system. Through the Fertility Preservation Program, Roswell Park helps patients keep a hopeful eye on their futures and the possibilities that lie ahead. Through the generosity of donors, patients can speak with fertility experts to find the best solution for their life before treatment begins.

This is a photo of Elevate Salon at The 11 Day Power Play Resource Center at Roswell Park.

The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center and Elevate Salon

Going through cancer treatment can be one of the toughest times in a patient and their loved ones’ lives. Thankfully, donors fully fund The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center at Roswell Park to ease some of the stressors faced. There, patients and caregivers are greeted with warmth and compassion. They can access educational materials, comfort items and various resources to help them through their cancer journey. To accommodate for the growing patient population, Roswell Park also recently opened the Elevate Salon where experts help patients navigate hair loss. These essential spaces put patients’ needs first and allow for a safe place to take a deep breath and gather strength.

Creative Arts Team

Researchers at Roswell Park found that dedicated exposure to art improves patients’ hope and mental well-being and decreases their anxiety. The Art Heals Gallery, a curated space for patients and their loved ones to relax and immerse themselves in work by some of the area’s best artists, is fully supported by donations. The Creative Arts Team at Roswell Park is committed to providing not only incredible artwork for patients to enjoy, but art in which they can actively participate, as well, like art kits for inpatients, creative events and other experiences.

Transportation & Translation Services

Roswell Park is committed to giving patients the best possible care. If those patients can’t get to Roswell Park or have barriers to communication when they arrive, they can’t receive the care they need. Powered by donor funding, Roswell Park’s Transportation & Translation Services helps our patients access critical cancer care who might not be able to do so otherwise. There’s an increasing number of patients at Roswell Park who don’t have reliable transportation and a growing population of patients in need of translation support. Now more than ever it’s crucial to provide these services so everyone can have access to the best cancer care available to them.

This image shows a driver in a Roswell Park vehicle, one of the transportation services offered through our quality of life programs.

East Side Bike Club: Riding to make a difference

East Side Bike Club: Riding to make a difference

Every year there are hundreds of teams that join the Ride for Roswell.  While some teams have been returning to Ride for several years, the Ride Community is always expanding.

In 2023, East Side Bike Club (ESBC) made a commitment to the cause by creating a team for the first time.

East Side Bike Club at IceCycle
East Side Bike Club Slow Roll
East Side Bike Club at IceCycle
East Side Bike Club at MLK Park

Team Captain Karen Huffman says several of their members have ridden as individuals over the last few years, but this year they’re excited to do Ride Day together as an organized group.

“Our team really is a family,” Karen stated.

One of the main reasons they’re getting involved in Ride for Roswell is reflective of why ESBC was founded in the first place: community representation.

“The East Side is not always well represented in many aspects, including the biking world,” said Karen. “It’s important to get us out there. It’s also important to let people know that the East Side exists and that it still needs a lot to catch it up to the rest of Buffalo on every front, including cancer research and cancer treatment.”

George Johnson, the founder of ESBC, agrees.

“It’s important that we are there so that we can send a message to our community,” said George. “I know that early detection with cancer is vitally important. I have some cancer survivors in my family, and I know of a lot of cancer survivors, but often times when we should get tested or checked out for things, especially as black people, we often think, ‘Well that’s for them, and it’s not for us.”

George wants to change the conversation and encourage more people to learn about cancer, how to protect themselves and when to seek help.

With a mission to educate others and build relationships, a partnership was born between ESBC and Ride for Roswell.

Getting involved and growing.

Members of ESBC are on a roll participating in Roswell Park events. They came out in a large number at this year’s IceCycle, and had a blast spinning at RiverWorks.

“That was so fun! None of us went in there knowing what to expect other than to dress in layers, but once we got going, we were laughing and having a great time,” said Karen.

Now, they’re in recruitment season for Ride for Roswell!

Karen says they’re talking to people one-on-one about the Ride and the mission, with more people joining every day. They’re also utilizing social media as a recruitment tool.

George added, “We try to tell them that it’s important to come and get involved. We encourage them as best as we can to get on a bike, but for people who don’t want to ride, you can just come and be around the people. You can pass out information.”

East Side Bike Club at IceCycle
Karen Huffman at IceCycle

Riding with purpose.

When asked what she was looking forward to most on Ride Day, Karen answered, “Just spending time with our team and knowing that we’re all together raising money for cancer research, which affects everybody across every population. It doesn’t discriminate.”

George echoed similar sentiments.

He explained, “The Ride is something to collaborate to bring people closer together so they can see the bigger picture. More importantly, we’re building a partnership that’s necessary to bring awareness.”

Both Karen and George hope Ride for Roswell becomes a tradition for ESBC. They have a desire to inform and engage their community, while doing their part in the mission to end cancer.

“We’ll be celebrating with a lot of joy. We’ll be posting information. We’ll have a lot of fun at the Ride,” said George. “Buffalo is the City of Good Neighbors, and we try to do the best we can to display that.”

Ride fundraising drives cutting-edge CAR T therapy at Roswell Park

Ride fundraising drives cutting-edge CAR T therapy at Roswell Park

At Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, scientists and clinicians are serious about finding the next cancer treatments today. With Ride for Roswell fundraising dollars behind them, they can urgently pursue the research and clinical trials that will become lifesaving standard-of-care treatments.

Your fundraising supports research at Roswell Park surrounding CAR T-cell therapy, a form of immunotherapy that uses reengineered cells to teach your body to fight its own cancer. This advancement was developed originally for blood cancers, but researchers are hard at work to apply this method to solid tumors, as well.

Roswell Park has been developing novel uses for CAR T-cell therapy, enhancing scientific discoveries that can change the way we treat cancer.

Expanding the way we can use this type of treatment will mean being able to reach more and more patients who are in need of some light in a difficult time. Patients whose treatments have maybe not provided the results they were hoping to see because of their particular makeup or type of cancer.

 

 

Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD
Marco Davila, MD, PhD
Photo of Bud

Some patients have already experienced the hope that CAR T therapy can provide. Patients like Bernard “Bud” Blocho have been given more time with their loved ones thanks to this cutting-edge science.

Bud is a devoted husband, dad and grandpa who has Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When cancer returned after years in remission, Bud ultimately needed CAR T therapy at Roswell Park to rid his body of cancer once again.

Thanks to Ride for Roswell donors and participants, patients like Bud can spend more time enjoying their families and less time fighting cancer.

Longtime volunteer Doug Citron reflects on years of service

Longtime volunteer Doug Citron reflects on years of service

The beginning.

The importance of service to others is something Doug Citron learned at a young age working on the Variety Club Telethon.

“I was raised in my family that you volunteer,” Doug explained.

He carried that value with him into adulthood and getting involved with Ride for Roswell seemed like a natural fit.

“I’ve been involved with Roswell Park my whole life. My father was a doctor, and my brother is an oncologist. My wife, Jill, retired from Roswell Park after more than 30 years. My father-in-law was a longtime patient and I have been a patient myself.”

Ride for Roswell began in 1996, thanks to another passionate volunteer – Mitch Flynn.

Doug and Jill joined the cause a few years later.

Doug at Ride for Roswell
Early Ride for Roswell photo
Doug with Mitch Flynn and other volunteers

Growing with the Ride.

Doug became a Ride for Roswell volunteer in the event’s early days. He started out in the team tent area – before being pulled to help with the parking lots.

“Back then, there were only three parking lots. Now, we have every parking lot on campus,” Doug laughed.

This new role aligned perfectly with Doug’s 30 years of experience in law enforcement and security. He leaned on his expertise and connections to build relationships with local agencies and develop the parking system that is still in place at the event.

Doug also pushed for more opportunities for other volunteers to utilize their professional skillsets, just as he did.

As the Ride continued to grow, so did Doug’s involvement. Among his tasks, he started a volunteer committee and encouraged the creation of a full-time volunteer coordinator position.

A family tradition.

Doug not only volunteered alongside his wife Jill, but his children also took on roles at the Ride.

“It’s been the greatest thing for me. It was a way of having a great family reunion,” Doug explained. “Our children in Buffalo and their families participated and our daughter Betsy and her husband would fly in from wherever they were living to work the Ride.”

After the Ride, Doug and Jill would even host a thank-you party for the volunteers with typically more than 100 people.

“I love the volunteers, the people,” Doug added when asked what kept him coming back for so many years.

Passing the torch.

Heading into the 2023 Ride for Roswell, Doug and Jill are ready to pass the torch to the next generation of volunteers.

While their involvement is changing, Doug says the Ride will still be a present force in their lives.

“It will never stop. People know me from the Ride and it doesn’t matter what restaurant I go into or what social event, the Ride is the number one topic of conversation. It will always be there.”

He looks back on his many years of service fondly, and he has a message for other people looking to join the cause.


Doug accepting an award

“You’re probably going to work harder than you’ve ever worked, but you’ll come away with the best, most amazing feeling.”

Over the years, the Ride has raised tens of millions of dollars for life-changing cancer research, clinical trials and treatments. That would not have been possible without volunteers like Doug.

“Nobody ever dreamed that it was going get this big and raise this much money,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of Ride for Roswell.”

The Ride Team thanks you, Doug, for your years of incredible dedication and service!

Safety tips for Ride Weekend

Safety tips for Ride Weekend

Safety is the top priority at Ride for Roswell whether you’re riding five miles or 100 miles. You can take steps now to help make sure you and the people around you have the best Ride Weekend possible! Check out these safety tips for before and during your ride.

Rider at Ride for Roswell

Pre-Ride Preparation.

Check your bicycle.

  • Pull your bike out of storage and check the tires, brakes and chain.
  • Get your bicycle tuned up at a local bike shop. Our team believes this is well worth the cost! If you’re unable to take your bike to a bike shop, consider having a skilled family member evaluate your bike before Ride Weekend.
  • Purchase a spare tube that fits your tires to bring with you on Ride Day so if you get a flat, it can be fixed faster.

Riding in a longer route? Now is the time to start training!

  • Our Ride for Roswell team encourages training if you’re riding anywhere from 44 to 100 miles on Ride Day. Remember, for the 100-mile Country Route, you must be able to ride 65 miles in 4.5 hours (15 mph).

Reminders for the 44-mile Canada Route.

  • If you’re riding in the 44-mile Canada Route, follow your email instructions to submit secure personal travel documents data on time. Proper documentation is essential to safely crossing the border during your ride.

Get familiar with the apps.

  • For Ride, there are two critical mobile device apps that you can utilize for route navigation and emergency aid. It’s a great idea to review and activate these apps this spring to make sure you’re comfortable with them by Ride Weekend!
Woman at Ride for Roswell

Don’t forget to pack …

  • One or two sports water bottles that fit into the cages on your bike. Loose spring water bottles can fall out and create crash hazards for others.
  • A fully charged cellphone.
  • A cycling helmet!
  • Your Ride for Roswell rider bib.
  • Personal ID packet in a waterproof bag.
    • Driver license/ photo ID
    • Health insurance card
    • Emergency medical alerts
    • Credit card or cash
    • Travel documents (for Canada Route)

On the ride.

  • Remember, you are sharing the roads with cars. Ride to the right, on the shoulder with no more than two bicycles side by side. Be prepared to ride single file when cars need to pass you.
  • Follow the route guides! There are police, fire police and volunteer route guides at some intersections. Be prepared to stop as directed.
  • At intersections that have no police or volunteer staff, follow all traffic signs and rules.
  • On the start line, all riders start together. After a few turns, riders spread out and ride in small groups. No one is leading the Ride. Use your map, cue sheets, RWGPS navigation and follow the orange route arrows signs.
  • All routes “split” where longer routes keep going and shorter routes turn around. These route splits are marked with big mileage number signs and orange turn direction signs.
  • Dress for the weather in bright, high visibility clothing.
Route Guide at Ride for Roswell

Ensuring the safety of riders is essential to continuing our mission to end cancer. We can’t wait to Ride with you this summer!

Ride for Roswell Spirit Week 2023: Everything you need to know!

Ride for Roswell Spirit Week 2023: Everything you need to know!

What’s the best way to show your love for the Ride before Ride Day? Spirit Week!

Spirit Week runs from Monday, March 27 through Friday, March 31. Activities include a 24-hour fundraising challenge, sharing Ride photos from years past and, of course, wearing your Ride for Roswell swag!

You won’t want to miss out on the excitement!

Here’s a breakdown of each day.

Riders at Ride for Roswell

Monday, March 27: Matching Monday

The first 500 riders to raise $100 will receive a $100 matching gift courtesy of the West Herr Automotive Group. Don’t wait because this match will be over quick!

Tuesday, March 28: Team Up Tuesday

Are you ready for this Team Recruitment Challenge? Teams who recruit 10 or more members by Friday, March 31, will be entered to win a customized team T-shirt and Linde swag packs for all team members!

Are you a Roswell Park employee? Roswell Park teams that recruit 10 or more members by Friday, March 31, will be entered to win a catered team lunch! ID badge reels and cookie delivery will also start this day for employees who are registered.

Wednesday, March 29: Kickoff Wednesday

5 – 7 p.m. | Buffalo RiverWorks

All are welcome! Pick up your lawn sign at Kickoff if you’ve raised $100.

Also, if you hit $100 after March 29, you can pick up your lawn sign at one of the participating Tops Markets locations. See the full list here

Thursday, March 30: Throwback Thursday

We want to see your favorite Ride photos from years past! Be sure to tag us on Facebook and Instagram!

 

Friday, March 31: FUNdraising Friday

Wear your Ride for Roswell swag to participating local restaurants and breweries including Big Ditch, Hartmans, and Hofbrauhaus to receive 10% off of your purchase during Happy Hour from 5 – 8pm.

The 10% off your purchase will be available all day at the following SPOT Coffee locations Hertel, Elmwood, Delaware, Clarence, Williamsville, Orchard Park and Amherst.

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

Ride Season is gearing up, and we can’t wait to celebrate with you! Together, we are riding to end cancer.

See you on Ride Weekend!

Meet Maryann Salvadore: The 2023 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter

Meet Maryann Salvadore: The 2023 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter

Maryann Salvadore was diagnosed with end-stage cancer when she was 44. But even during the fight for her life, she has always strived to bring people together and create a safe space for the ever-growing community of those affected by cancer. That’s who Maryann is, and that’s one of the many reasons why she has been selected to lead us as the 2023 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter.

Marcus, Mark and Maryann
Team Salvadore at Ride for Roswell for the first time in 2011

Maryann’s journey.

It was 2009 when Maryann learned she had an aggressive form of multiple myeloma. She was a full-time business owner and mother to then 12-year-old Marcus. At the time of her diagnosis, the cancer had already metastasized throughout her body, attacking 90% of her bone marrow.

For the following nine months, Maryann spent every other day at Roswell Park, between six to 12 hours per day. She leaned heavily on her husband Mark, who took her to all of her appointments.

“We had never expected a medical center to be filled with such compassionate people,” she remembered. “It was so uncommon to come across somebody who wasn’t looking you in the eye, talking to you, calling you by your first name and treating you like you were a friend or family member.”

Fast forward to 2011, treatment continued. One day in early spring, as Maryann was undergoing chemo, she and Mark noticed signs for Ride for Roswell.

Per Mark’s suggestion, they decided to start a team. Once Maryann, Mark and Marcus registered, they sent out an email letting people know they signed up for Ride for Roswell.

“Before we even left chemo, people started joining,” said Maryann.

That first year, their team had 45 people. And so, the tradition was born.

Team Salvadore Pedal Power.

Every year, Team Salvadore Pedal Power averages between 60 and 80 members, but their team tent always has more than 100 people. That’s because Maryann has always wanted her team to be a community, a place where anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis can feel welcome.

“Our team is about letting people know that there’s hope,” said Maryann. “We all want to take away the power the cancer holds over the people we love, and I wanted people to feel comfortable sharing their stories.”

Since 2016, her team has also been responsible for enhancing one of the most impactful elements of the Ride – the finish line. Along the pavement, members of Team Salvadore Pedal Power write the names of every rider who has designated themselves as a cancer patient or survivor. In 2022 alone, that was 714 riders. It’s a visual representation of what bring us all together at the Ride.  

“When you have cancer, so many things are taken away from you. This is something those riders can share with their friends and family,” Maryann explained with tears in her eyes. “Some people are in the middle of treatment on that bike, doing everything they can because it’s so meaningful to prove this is another thing cancer is not going to take away from them.”

Due to the type of cancer Maryann has, she’s never been able to actually ride, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming an integral part of what makes Ride for Roswell so special – a person who embodies inclusion and compassion.

Recent Team Salvadore photo
Team Salvadore at Ride for Roswell

Amplifying voices.

Over the last 13 years, Maryann hosted countless gatherings, fundraisers and picnics leading up to Ride for Roswell. She is a source of solace and support for many people living with cancer, caring for a family member or grieving the loss of a loved one.

“I meet so many phenomenal people who inspire me,” said Maryann. “Everybody knows someone they care about and love who has gotten a cancer diagnosis, and not everybody is as lucky as me.”

As the 2023 Torch Lighter, she wants to use her unique position to put a spotlight on a larger message.

“The information that we’re learning from the research that they’re doing at Roswell Park is making treatments easier on people. It’s giving people like me a decade more than I would have gotten anywhere else and at any other point in time, but the work is not done. There are so many people who deserve so much better.”

That’s why she is a part of the Ride: because every dollar raised drives research that will change lives.

“I’m so grateful to be here, and because I am here, I just want to try to figure out ways to make life easier for everybody else,” Maryann added. “If you know somebody who has cancer, you give them your love and support, but how you help all cancer patients – is you Ride for Roswell.”

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.”