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.