How Vidya Shah Became 2023’s Top Youth Fundraiser

Vidya Shah, who is now a freshman at George Washington University, participated in her first Ride for Roswell in eighth grade. From a young age, she has understood the value of community, service to others and being a part of something bigger than herself. Her dedication to the cause paved the way for her to become the Ride’s top youth fundraiser of 2023.

Vidya Shah at Ride for Roswell (cropped)
Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2022

Vidya’s First Ride

Living in Western New York, Vidya was familiar with Ride for Roswell, but her connection to the event grew immensely after experiencing it for herself.

“I joined because I liked biking and then it spiraled into a lot more,” said Vidya.

That first year, she signed up for the June event in May. Even with a later start, she was able to rally a few people and make fundraising a priority.

“In the end, it was two of my friends and my mom, and we did the three-mile ride that year. We raised $1,800. It was definitely a welcome surprise to see so many of the people I reached out to were more than willing to donate.”

The atmosphere on Ride Day was unlike anything she could’ve anticipated.

“It was amazing. That’s why I wanted to come back and do it again and keep on extending the team.”

And that’s exactly what she did in the several years that followed.

Vidya’s Secret to Fundraising

For Vidya, fundraising isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, she uses a combination of traditional and modern methods to reach her goals.

She takes advantage of texting by sending a link of her fundraising dashboard to her family and friends multiple times throughout Ride Season. However, a major piece of her campaign is going door-to-door to collect donations. This part of the journey takes time. Vidya says she goes around her neighborhood and nearby communities over the span of several days.

“Even when going door-to-door, I came across two or three people who told me that they’re currently getting treated or they currently have cancer,” she explained. “It was very powerful going to those people’s houses and learning about their stories, and that is one of the main reasons I ride.”

Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2020.
Vidya at the 2020 Ride for Roswell.
Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2021.
Vidya's team in 2022

Connection to the Cause

Like so many riders, Vidya, too, has a personal connection to the cancer cause. Both of her maternal grandparents and her great-grandfather passed away from cancer.

“They were all obviously very close to my mother and I never got to meet my mom’s mom. She passed away before I was born.”

While her loved ones were in India during their battles with the disease, Vidya knows her involvement with the Ride has a worldwide impact.

“Even if my grandparents weren’t treated at Roswell Park or in the United States, just the general cause of cancer research really was quite personal for me.”

Two of Vidya’s friends were also diagnosed with cancer. Both are now thankfully doing well, but knowing the grasp cancer has on so many motivates Vidya to keep raising funds for Roswell Park.

“It’s in my hometown. It’s helping people in my community.”

Ride Your Own Way

Vidya has built a community of her own through her Ride for Roswell team. But, in 2023, the weekend event posed a conflict. The Ride fell on the same day as her high school graduation.

Her team, which included several other high school seniors, decided they still wanted to be involved even if they couldn’t participate in the traditional way. So, Vidya got right to work.

With the help of her family, she planned a separate ride for the following Sunday. It was a 10-mile route to Ellicott Creek Trailway Park.

“I think what exceeded all expectations was last year we had our biggest team yet with almost 36 members. And what surprised me was, over the years, I had teachers who had initially reached out about just donating, and this year they were saying, ‘Hey, I want to ride.’”

To recreate some of the Ride Day elements, parents of the riders followed along with their cars, and at the rest stops along the way, they supplied snacks and drinks and cheered on the team.

“That really helped make it a little bit closer to the experience. In general, the ride was great.”

Despite all the challenges and pivots that Ride Season, Vidya managed to hit her personal record for fundraising, and was honored as the Top Youth Fundraiser for 2023.

Her parents proudly accepted the award on her behalf at the Pathways Park Ceremony in August once Vidya was away at college.

Vidya's Ride for Roswell team in 2023
Vidya's family at the Pathways Park ceremony.
Vidya at the 2020 Ride for Roswell.

Why Young People Should Get Involved

The Ride has become not only a summer tradition for Vidya, but something that has grown into an important part of her life. She encourages other young people to get involved and do their part in the mission to end cancer.

“Nothing ever just comes in a big breakthrough. There are a lot of steps to take to get there and you are a part of those steps by just fundraising.”

Creating community, making memories and leaving a lasting impact: that’s what Vidya has accomplished through the Ride, a journey that began as a young teenager and continues as she enters adulthood.

“My connection with Ride for Roswell has definitely influenced me to want to pursue research and also to stay connected with service throughout my life.”