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BINGO: Get Inspired for Your Next Virtual Fundraiser

COVID-19 may have stopped us from going to work, hugging our loved ones, and enjoying a meal at our favorite restaurants, but we got creative. We figured out new ways to connect with coworkers from home, send love to our families, and support local businesses.

Now it’s time to get creative with our fundraising to support cancer patients. Not even COVID-19 can stop cancer, and we need to continue to raise funds and make an impact on the future of cancer research, even if we can’t be together on the road.

Looking for inspiration? We want to introduce you to two of our road warriors, Stephanie and Brandon Zarbo, whose passion and dedication to the cause helped them raise $1,200 during just one virtual event!

Stephanie and Brandon hosted a virtual bingo night in early May where they had 45 players, sold 250 bingo cards, and attracted over 400 viewers. “It was a lot of fun for us and gave us something to do while we’re cooped up,” Stephanie told us.

Their first one was so successful, they scheduled a part two for May 17 where they hoped to sell 500 cards!

We talked to Stephanie and Brandon about how they planned this event and made it as successful as it was. Take a look:

Where did the idea come from?
As the COVID situation began playing out, it was becoming clear in early April that our planned fundraising events in late April were not going to be able to happen. On top of that, we knew it would be very challenging to try to raise money as we know people are struggling financially. But, we also knew how much friends and family were in need of some fun distraction and we had been wanting to organize some type of virtual game night since this all started. There are lots of online group game options available now, but not anything large scale. Bingo came to my mind because we wouldn’t have to get everyone on a call, and I could easily distribute playing cards via email. We decided the prize should be dinner deliveries from a local restaurant to add another layer of support for our community.

Your viewers/participants – were they local? How far was your reach?
Most viewers were from the area, but we had friends and family playing from everywhere! I think some of the farthest were our friends in Salt Lake City and South Carolina, and some cousins in Northern Ontario!

What platform did you do it on?
We used Facebook Live and that worked out well. Most people have a Facebook account, even if they don’t use it often, so it was easy to get everyone watching in the same place.

How did you get the bingo cards? How did you set it up?
When I first had the idea, I started researching virtual bingo options. There’s a great site called that made it very easy. From there, as donations came in, I sent out playing cards via email to players with instructions for how to play. We sold out of game cards so we also decided to add Live Trivia in between rounds to add a little more fun, as well as another chance to win prizes. Players called in via Houseparty and we streamed them in our live video. In terms of the live setup, we had started planning assuming that we would just set up a phone and go live. But Brandon and I are video production professionals and after being out of work for 6 weeks, it felt like the right time to flex our production muscles. We had a two camera live stream and also included the live call-ins. It was a lot of moving parts, but it went really well for our first time and so much fun!
You can check out Stephanie and Brandon’s live stream of their first virtual bingo here:
Great job Stephanie and Brandon! We are so grateful to have your dedication and support.

An Update on the 2020 Empire State Ride

When you’re riding a bike and approach a hill, what do you do? You shift gears to accommodate the terrain, which allows you to continue on to the next leg of your journey. You adapt in order to conquer your challenge.

Well, this year, COVID-19 is our challenge. And in order to overcome it, we have to shift gears on the Empire State Ride.

Unfortunately, our weeklong adventure cannot take place as it normally does. But our road warriors can still make an impact on the future of cancer research. Cancer isn’t stopping. So we can’t either.

We’d like to introduce the 500+ Mile Challenge, a way for us to safely ride while changing the future of cancer research. From July 1 until August 1, we are asking our road warriors to cycle 500+ miles any way they’d like. We’ll also be continuing our fundraising efforts and hosting fun opportunities for our riders to honor what would have been #ESR20, July 26 – August 1.

First and foremost – your fundraising. We want to ride together for the 2021 Empire State Ride. That’s why we are saving a spot for all 2020 registered riders during next year’s adventure, which will take place from July 25 through 31 and deferring your 2020 registration fee to next year. 

The funds you have raised so far are absolutely critical to advancing cancer research, and are already hard at work.  We know you worked hard to fundraise this year and want you to continue your #ESR20 efforts. That’s why whatever fundraising amount you achieve by August 31, will boost your #ESR21 fundraising efforts.

ESR rider
2020 Fundraising Level 2021 Boost
Riders at $1,000 - $1,999
Riders at $2,000 - $3,499
Riders at $3,500 - $4,999
Riders at $5,000 - $7,499
Riders at $7,500+

The donations you raise for the Empire State Ride this year will support the most promising, cutting-edge research happening in the world right now, and it’s happening at Roswell Park: immunotherapy. It’s the future of cancer treatment, and Roswell Park researchers are leading the way in developing these new therapies that help our own immune systems fight and kill cancer. They’re our best hope for saving more lives. You even stepped up to the challenge in April to helped raise $29,500 for COVID-19 research!

And don’t worry — you still have the chance to receive rewards for all your hard work.

2020 Fundraising Level Rider Reward
Riders at $1,000 +
ESR20 Jersey
Riders at $3,500+
ESR Backpack, Cycling Cap & Socks
Riders at $7,500+
ESR Limited Edition Windbreaker
Riders at $10,000+
Excelsior Jersey & SAC Grant
Riders $15,000+
Daily massages, towel service, and tent concierge in 2021

The 500+ Mile Challenge

Even though we can’t gather on the steps of Wagner College for our annual picture, we are still determined to make this summer not only impactful but fun for all our road warriors. Let’s all commit to riding 500+ miles throughout the month of July. It doesn’t matter whether you complete this outdoors or on your indoor trainer. It just matters that we do it.

Not only are we going to track everyone’s mileage in the #ESR20 Strava club, but you can also try to ride the mileage you would have during the week of July 26  –  August 1.

Day 159 miles
Day 273 miles
Day 375 miles
Day 4100 miles
Day 583 miles
Day 677 miles
Day 778 miles

We are also planning on having virtual activities for everyone to participate in – more to come on those. So stay tuned!
And you’re going to need some new Empire State Ride gear in order to participate in these new adventures!
Our store is now open, so make sure to place an order by June 4 in order to receive it for the week of #ESR20.

Will You Join Us?

We know this is different and not at all how you pictured riding your first (or second or third) Empire State Ride. But the passion all our road warriors have is contagious. Let’s harness it this summer and advance cancer research. Because even though we can’t have our normal adventure, we can still do something to change the future.

Thank you for your support, dedication and passion. Check out this message from our founder, Terry.

You can join the 500+ mile challenge today!

Ride wherever you are, with whoever you want.

There’s no registration fee or fundraising requirements.

Any funds you do raise will support cancer research right now.

Register Today!

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Elm & Carlton Streets
Buffalo, NY 14263