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Buffalo’s Ride for Roswell: A Cycling Event to Raise Money to Fight Cancer

There’s a ride to end cancer in the city of Buffalo, NY. It’s called the Ride for Roswell, and it’s an annual bicycle ride that raises money for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, also known simply as Roswell Park. Based in Buffalo, Roswell Park became the first institute dedicated to cancer research in the world when it opened its doors in 1898, and it’s considered one of the best cancer hospitals in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The origin story of the Ride to Roswell is a touching one. In 1989, Mitch Flynn, owner of advertising agency Flynn & Friends, met four-year-old Katherine Gioia, a patient who was battling a rare form of cancer. After Katherine’s death within a year of her diagnosis, Katherine’s mother Anne and aunt Donna founded the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation in her memory to raise money for cancer research and treatment. On June 29, 1996, Mitch and Alliance Foundation staff launched the first Ride for Roswell and was astonished when it raised over $100,000.

In the 25 years since then, thanks to many thousands of riders, the Ride for Roswell has raised almost $57 million to fund cancer research, and it’s become one of the largest single-day charity rides in the United States. Spanning 10 routes, the Ride now covers 14 municipalities, three counties, two countries (the U.S. and Canada), and over 400 miles.

Summer of the Ride
Summer of the Ride (Photo Courtesy of rideforroswell.org)

Previously, teams of bicyclists registered to ride in a single-day event. Teams are comprised of community groups, corporations, family and friends; and cancer survivors, and each team raises money to support its participation.

However, owing to the realities of COVID-19, the Ride for Roswell is, for the first time, no longer a one-day event. In 2020, the Ride for Roswell was reimagined as the Summer of the Ride and began August 1 and ends August 21, with over 5,100 riders participating.  As of the writing of this article in mid-August 2020, the event had raised over $3.3 million.

“From the beginning, this has been about coming together to save lives from cancer,” said Mitch Flynn, the Ride for Roswell’s founder.

“With the Summer of the Ride, we’ll have a lot of great ways we can do that, despite everything that’s happened the past few months. At the end of the day, the Ride is about the people we ride for. Cancer doesn’t stop, and neither can we. We still need to fund new research and clinical trials. We still need to keep finding better treatments until we discover a cure. We still need to save lives. I can’t wait to see what we do together with these new Ride options this year as we fight to make those things happen.”

He added: “Cancer will always be here, its’s one of the leading causes of death, and almost everybody knows somebody who has had a cancer diagnosis. It’s prevalent in Western New York, America, and society in general. And what Roswell does with the research for cures and patient care and cures is critical, so there’s a critical need to raise money for that.”

One of the many people the Ride for Roswell has inspired is Lori Runk, who beat breast cancer eight years ago while a patient at Roswell Park, and to thank Roswell Park’s expert medical staff, she celebrated by riding an amazing over 500 miles solo in her own personal Ride for Roswell. 

Another Ride participant is a Roswell Park employee himself. Sergei Kurenov creates, develops, and implements innovative diagnostic and surgical preplanning software used in cancer treatment. He leads the Ride for Roswell team called Open Access. Impact Journals has been sponsoring this team since 2018 and is a publisher of such open-source online medical journals as Oncotarget, a cancer research journal well known for its association with Nobel Prize winners. Two other members of Open Access are also Roswell Park employees. The Open Access team is one of the many Ride teams comprised of Roswell Park employees.

“Roswell Park is dedicated to providing a high level of care for cancer patients,” said Sergei, who’s been riding for Roswell since 2016. “By contributing to the Ride for Roswell, we are helping our patients to fight this most dangerous disease.”

In part because of the Ride, the Ride to Roswell’s parent organization, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, continues to receive widespread recognition for its support of the cancer center. Anne D. Gioia, the co-founder of the Foundation, received the 2020 New York State Women of Distinction award for the 60th Senate District.  In 1998, the Women of Distinction program was established to recognize the historic contributions of New York women. It was the loss of her 5-year-old daughter Katherine to cancer in 1989 (mentioned earlier in this story) that sparked the creation of the Foundation, which has helped raise more than $400 million to fund cancer research, treatment, and prevention programs, in addition to supporting patients and their families.

To learn more about the Ride to Roswell, consult its website.

You can learn more about the philanthropic work of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation here.

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