Search Empire State Ride

Team spotlight: the Regulators

Meet the Regulators

port x logistics logo

"Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten."

Each Empire State Ride road warrior who tackles the adventure in July hopes to glean something different from riding their bike 500+ miles across New York State. For those on Team Regulators, it comes down to raising funds for cancer research and having fun while doing it.

“We’re just a band of misfits,” said Josh Lundquist, a founding member of the Regulators. “We’re all the non-super-serious cyclists who go to have a good time. We goof around; we pick on each other. It’s all in good fun to get your mind off some of the daunting hills and long days. Through that, we’ve made lifelong friends.”

The Regulators, led by 2024 team captain Amy Flynn, has become one of Empire State Ride’s largest teams, with 16 cyclists on last year’s roster. The growth can be attributed to a variety of factors, but one comes up time and time again: “picking up strays,” a term they use endearingly.

As a no-drop group, the Regulators often quote the Disney classic Lilo and Stitch as they pick up riders in need of motivation, making sure that nobody gets left behind or forgotten. Why? Because that’s what family does, and through the years, the Regulators have become just that: family. They do their best to make sure cyclists who take on the adventure solo or fall behind their group aren’t alone. As long as riders don’t mind the banter, they have a place with the Regulators.

“We come in last for two reasons. One: Because it’s not a race, and we want to have fun and enjoy every single mile that we’re out there. Two: We really don’t leave anyone behind,” said Shelley Unocic, a long-time member of the Regulators. “You ride as fast as the slowest person who’s going to stay in that group with you.”

Riding with Purpose

Two members of the Regulators fist bump during day seven of the 2023 Empire State Ride

The Regulators often joke that they aren’t the fastest team (often self-declared dead last), but they have grit and a fierce passion for riding to end cancer. In fact, their team was the third top team last year, raising more than $106K for cancer research at Roswell Park and beyond.

For Shelley, being a part of the Empire State Ride movement is a chance to make a lasting difference in the mission to end cancer.

One fact that motivates her, in particular, is that for every dollar donated to ESR, Roswell Park is able to leverage an additional $23 from external grants toward cancer research. That means donations have a huge impact on the future of cancer care, paving the way for innovative new treatment options.

Shelley has helped the Regulators become a fundraising powerhouse with her unique ideas, unbeatable drive and passion for the cause. Not only do these riders stay in contact year-round, but they fundraise together. The Regulators have found great success in unique fundraising methods like hosting a hockey tournament, working concessions at the Buffalo Bills games and encouraging riders to use their unique talents for the cause.

“We fundraise together as a team, and it makes life easier,” Josh says.

How Josh Got Started on the Regulators

Josh with his family and best friend, fellow ESR rider, Mike.

Like so many riders, the cancer cause is highly personal to each member of the Regulators. For Josh, ESR first became a thought when he saw an ad during a Buffalo Sabres game.

“I said to my friend Mike, ‘Listen, when I’m fully recovered, we’re going to do this.’ And he looked at me and goes, ‘Are you serious?’”

Josh was serious. At that time, he was battling a rare form of testicular cancer, a diagnosis he received after dealing with continued kidney pain. In the emergency room, he learned he had a tumor the size of a softball that wrapped around his aorta, vena cava and the ureter to his left kidney.

Josh explained that his particular type of cancer doubles in size every 11 days. To stop the progression, he went through six rounds of chemo over the course of about four months and had his kidney removed.

“I had my last treatment on Christmas Eve. The next Friday, I put my ice skates back on and played hockey. I just wasn’t going to let cancer take me away from me.”

Not long after, he and Mike, his friend of 20 years, signed up for ESR together. They’ve been an integral part of the ESR community ever since.

Shelley’s Inspiration for Riding

When Shelley Unocic first heard of ESR, she doubted whether or not she had what it took to ride 500+ miles across New York State. She questioned, “I was in my mid-40s. I am not an athlete. I’m just an average mom.” Soon she would learn, she is anything but average.

She mustered up the courage in 2020 to sign up. She was ready for the experience of a lifetime. Then, COVID-19 hit, and the ride she had envisioned was no longer an option. Still, that didn’t keep her from raising money and putting in the miles. She took part in the Hometown Challenge that year, and in 2021, she was finally able to get the full seven-day ESR experience.

“It was life changing. I thought I was one and done, and now I’m in year five and will probably ride ESR until I can’t ride my bike anymore,” said Shelley.

Like so many ESR road warriors, Shelley too has a connection to the cancer cause.

“My father-in-law passed away from esophageal cancer. By the time he had been diagnosed, it was stage 4. They gave him two months to two years to live. He lasted 12 months, and it was eleven months of hell.”

While her efforts through ESR couldn’t have saved her father-in-law, she knows that being a part of this movement is changing the future of cancer care … and that keeps her going.

ESR’s 10th Anniversary

An ESR jersey saying 500+ miles, 7 days, one mission

2024 marks 10 years of ESR. When asked if they’d be there for the milestone, neither Josh or Shelley hesitated.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. ESR has become a staple in our life,” said Josh. “We rode with Terry when we found out we hit $1 million for cancer research. That kind of stuck with me, and I want to be there for when we hit the next milestone and the next milestone.”

Shelley added, “The 10th anniversary just speaks volumes to Terry’s vision and how far it’s come. The fact that so many of us have been able to be on that journey for so many years and get it to where it is, is a special feeling. I tell people this event is a life-changing event. It certainly changed my life.”

JOIN THE REGULATORS FOR THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF EMPIRE STATE RIDE

What to know about Instagram fundraising

Fundraising $3,500 is a challenge, but when armed with the right tools and attitude, it’s easier than you think. Social media can be a great way to spread the word about your efforts, and integrating your online fundraising dashboard with your personal Facebook page can be extremely effective. Read more about that here.  

When it comes to using Instagram, however, fundraising gets more complicated. Here’s what you need to know. 

Donations from Instagram don't display on your dashboard

Facebook recently made it much easier to share your Facebook fundraiser on Instagram, but funds from Instagram do not display in the Empire State Ride dashboard.

Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Instagram dashboard showing donations
Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Instagram dashboard showing set up
Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Instagram dashboard

Already set up your Instagram fundraiser?

If you’ve already set up an Instagram fundraiser, we can help you get credit for the amount raised. Please reach out to us at empirestateride@roswellpark.org with the following information from your Instagram fundraiser:

  • Your full name
  • The names of all of your donors
  • The Instagram usernames of all your donors
  • The individual amounts raised by each donor
  • The date of each donation

From there, we will manually post the donations to your account. This can take up to four weeks, as we are unable to post a donation until we receive the payment from Instagram. Please keep this in mind when planning for rewards and matches. 

Instagram sends donations monthly with no information regarding the donor or recipient. That’s why your help is so important.

Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Instagram dashboard showing donations

How can I fundraise on Instagram?

When you switch your fundraiser from Facebook to Instagram, the integration to your Empire State Ride fundraising page gets lost.

The funds are sent to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation (the non-profit organization that runs the Empire State Ride), but they don’t reflect on your Empire State Ride page.

For that reason, it’s best to avoid using Instagram fundraisers.

Here’s what you can do instead:

  1. Stick with fundraising on Facebook or directly through your ESR page.
  2. Copy the link from your ESR fundraising page (see below) and paste it to stories or your bio on Instagram (create a story, click the “stickers” button at the top, and select “link” to paste your URL).
Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Instagram dashboard showing Roswell Park Alliance Foundation
Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Instagram dashboard showing story

A decade of reflection on riding a bicycle across New York State

Written by Terry Bourgeois, Empire State Ride Founder

It was never about the ride.

Reflecting on the past decade of riding across New York State for cancer research, a rush of memories floods my mind, and my eyes well with tears. It has been a journey of dedication, resilience and hope for hundreds of road warriors. Over the years, I’ve witnessed the growth of the Empire State Ride (ESR) experience and the evolution of cancer care and research. Here are some reflections on the past, the progress we’ve made and the promising future ahead thanks to work being done at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Growth Over the Last 10 Years

Riders at sunset on ESR
Terry, Maria and friends at the finish line at ESR.

Looking back, it’s incredible to see how much ESR has grown. What started as a crazy idea to generate funding for cancer research on my solo ride in 2014 has transformed into a cycling event with a global reach. The number of participants, sponsors and supporters has soared, creating a community united by a common goal of advancing cancer research. The financial support generated through these rides has been instrumental in funding groundbreaking studies, clinical trials and innovative treatments.

You will hear me frequently say that the immense joy I get from the Empire State Ride is not solely the funds we raise for cancer research; it is the change it made in my life and the lives of others. The personal growth that occurs during ESR has infinite possibilities for the legacies of our riders. The fact that we are also providing critical funding to make cancer treatments less invasive and less toxic is our common why, but the outcome is far more than that.

There are two significant moments when ESR changed my life.

The first occurred at the beginning of my first solo ride across New York State. Following a series of mishaps, that first day seemed like a disaster as I rolled into camp. When a woman in an adjacent campsite asked what I was doing, I shared with her my vision of creating ESR to provide funding for cancer research. As it turned out, her sister was at the campsite for an extended stay while receiving treatment at a local cancer center, and her sister’s husband was also fighting prostate cancer.  It was an emotional evening that cemented why I needed to keep going.

The second transformation occurred during that first solo ride on Day 4. More challenges presented themselves, and I was struggling after only 20 miles of strong headwinds. I pulled over to a park bench along the side of a trail just outside of Albany and took out some cards with the names of the people I was riding for. Tears started falling and I broke down. As I got back on my bike, words from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle came to mind. It helped bring my awareness to my surroundings — the bees pollinating the flowers, birds flying above and the beauty of nature. This was the final building block that allowed me to dig deep and push onward to share this experience with others.  

That solo ride gave me the resolve to turn a vision into a reality through our fantastic team that works tirelessly to keep it healthy and growing.

How far we've come

So, here we are: the 10th anniversary. We went from one to sixty riders to more than 100 riders. Now, we have nearly 300 hundred riders joining this adventure annually. We’ve hope to reach $10 million raised for cancer research for the 10th anniversary, and I have never been more hopeful about the future we are creating because of the work at Roswell Park.

Today, because of the quality of solutions and ideas, Roswell Park can now leverage $23 dollars for every dollar donated. This is incredible and speaks to the respected quality of research at Roswell Park.

Roswell Park’s commitment to translating research into real-world applications has improved outcomes for countless patients. Developing targeted therapies, immunotherapies and precision medicine has reshaped the landscape of cancer care. These treatments, tailored to the unique characteristics of each patient’s cancer, have improved efficacy while minimizing side effects, marking a significant leap forward in the fight to end cancer.

Looking ahead, the future of ESR is closely intertwined with cutting-edge research, including the pioneering work on next-generation CAR T-cell therapies by Dr. Renier Brentjens and his team at Roswell Park.

As I reflect on a decade of riding across New York State for cancer research, I am filled with gratitude, hope and a renewed sense of purpose. The growth we’ve witnessed, both in the ESR community and the field of cancer research, is a testament to the power of collective action. With the beacon of innovation at Roswell Park guiding us, the future is bright. 

Together, as we pedal forward, we contribute to advancing cancer care and realizing a future where cancer is no longer an insurmountable challenge. We ride for progress, for hope and for a world free from cancer.

Sincerely,

Terry Bourgeois, ESR Founder