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Fundraising tips for first-time riders

Ready to become a road warrior?

When you sign up to ride with us across New York State, you’re committing to raising funds that pave the way for innovative cancer research and clinicals trials. Much like training for the 500+ mile adventure, becoming a fundraising master can also take practice.

The good news is you’re not in this alone!

Our Empire State Ride team is providing you with a wide variety of fundraising tools, including imagery ready for your social media feed, the ESR MyHub App and print materials like custom business cards. Read more about the fundraising tools available here.

As you’ll learn throughout your journey, your fellow road warriors can also be a great source of guidance. We asked registered riders in our private Empire State Riders Facebook group to share their advice for first-time fundraisers.

Rider on the road showing a sign of strength

Here’s a look at what they had to say:

  • Thomas F: “Start now by leveraging social and business cards!!!”

  • Shelley A: Start early … some will be happy to donate to your ride. Others need an incentive. If you can get a major prize, (TV, tickets to a game, etc.), then run a raffle. They love a chance to donate while having a chance to win something. Good luck!”

  • Dennis B: “Be creative – we are doing football squares, bowling. Some people are doing beer blasts. Key – be sure to tag people on Facebook when someone gives you a donation and thank them. That really helps your friends see it. Their friends see it, etc.”

  • Mark S: “A local brewery is letting me run a 50/50 during their trivia night!”

  • Steve M: “Some businesses will let you do a match event and donate a portion of proceeds to your ride. I did this twice with Chipotle. Invite friends/family on a specific night to get dinner at your local participating restaurant, and they donate 33%. Easy to do!”

  • Maria C: “My father said always just ask, 😊 You may be surprised, and I always keep my letters and cards with me. Ask everyone you know!”
  • Greg P: “March Madness contest. Get businesses to donate prizes. Then contestants make donations to ESR to get a ballot and play. We have a traveling trophy with names of winners from the previous 28 years.”

  • Chris H: “Don’t say their ‘no’ for them. If you don’t ask, then are you saying their ‘no’ for them. Don’t be shy. Don’t be discouraged by the no’s you get. But at least give them a chance to say ‘yes’ by asking.”

The back of a rider in an excelsior jersey at #ESR22
  • Marah C: “Tell everyone about the incredible event!”

  • Alan K: “You and your donors should check with their employer to see if they offer a company match for any donations made to ESR. My company will match up to $1,000 to any 501c3 charitable organization.”

  • Michelle Lynn B: “Always ask and give people the opportunity to give!”

  • Mark S: “If you do a 50/50 event, be sure to add a Venmo or QR code.

  • Jason M: “Be assertive. Lives depend on this mission.”

Want more fundraising tips? Check out last year’s advice to first-time riders.

Need more guidance?

Please contact the Empire State Ride team at 716-845-3179 or via email at empirestateride@roswellpark.org.

The Road to Empire State Ride, brought to you by Port X Logistics: Behind the Scenes

Presented by

Solid Yellow Port X Logo

Meet the Team

As you’re getting ready for your 500+ mile trek across New York State, so is our Empire State Ride operations team.

Every facet of Empire State Ride is mapped out months in advance, though ever-changing details require operations to pivot as the journey demands. The team thinks of all the elements, big and small, so that when you’re on the road, you can focus on the ride rather than the logistics.

Meet Megan, Ashley, Katie and Tom — the operations crew that works year-round to make this adventure possible.

This is a photo of the Empire State Ride Operations Team

“It’s like a big puzzle, like math. You’ve got to go in and figure out solutions to the problems,” said Senior Special Events Operations Coordinator Megan Maslach.

And to make sure the puzzle that is ESR is put together by July, it takes planning — a lot of planning.

“It’s a yearlong process. Even as we’re at a camp, I’m already talking to the venue about next year,” said Production Manager Katie Menke.

Once the team returns home to Buffalo, weekly meetings pick back up in full force to prepare for the upcoming ride. Still, when the weeklong event actually arrives, flexibility is key.

“Our team is really good at working on the fly and troubleshooting. We do an incredible amount of planning, but so many things happen when we’re out there, and our team is just so good at improvising,” said Katie.

Operations Manager Tom Johnston says the biggest obstacle is keeping an eye on all the moving parts.

He added, “Every site is different, and every site has its own flavor and challenges.” 

Camp Life

This is a photo of Katie on the ops team speaking at Wagner College during #ESR22
This is a photo of several rows of tents, featuring the camp life at ESR.
This photo shows members of the ESR staff at #ESR22

In addition to the route itself, camp life is a key part of the ESR experience. Each camp has a rider reception and services hub, tenting area, dining and program tent.

Among her various duties, Katie handles campsite logistics. This includes “everything that goes into rolling into an empty field and building a small village for us for that day,” Katie said. She emphasized that it’s a team effort, with collaboration from members of the ops team, vendors, caterers and more.

While the existing infrastructure varies from one site to the next, riders will always have access to portable restrooms and a traveling shower truck. Booking those amenities is one of Megan’s many tasks.

“I enjoy figuring out what we need to make a space habitable for 350 people,” said Megan. “My favorite part is creating a one-day home for people at each spot.”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the camp life at ESR is that each site is set up and taken down daily as the group rides across the state.

“After the riders leave at around 7:00 a.m., we pack up everything. The tent company packs up 300 tents individually. They roll them up, put them in their trailers, drive an hour to the next place and unload them all,” said Katie. “They even use a leaf blower to dry them out. They inflate air mattresses, they put a camping chair next to each tent and, somehow, they’re ready to go by 2 p.m. or so when the riders arrive after a day on the road.”

Adjusting to Scale

The first ESR took place back in 2014 when founder Terry Bourgeois rode solo from New York City to Niagara Falls on a pursuit to raise critical funds for cancer research at Roswell Park. Over the last nine years, his passion project has inspired hundreds of people to get involved.

Today, there are more than 200 people who join ESR on the road each year — and counting!

“As the event has grown, we’re always thinking about adjusting to scale so that we don’t lose that family-feel, but we also are able to deal with the larger numbers and be more efficient,” Tom explained.

Despite the size of ESR, riders, staff and volunteers alike often use the word “family” to describe the experience. Maintaining the special sense of community that is unique to this ride is essential. “It’s a big production, so much planning goes into it. There are lots of nuts and bolts and moving parts, but somewhere in there is that personal connection,” said Tom.

In recent years, the team has managed all operations in house for ESR. While there’s always room for growth, they say the process has been incredibly fulfilling and successful — creating a kind of synergy with everyone involved.

“I think what’s unique to our event is that it’s not just a bike tour. It’s very much about the cause and about fundraising and about everybody’s stories,” Katie added, “And our team is able to bring those concepts together for our week-long ride.”

Join the ESR Community

Of course, everyone plays an important role in Empire State Ride, including you!

Whether you want to get involved on the frontlines of the adventure as a rider or behind the scenes as a volunteer, members of the ops team say it’s a journey you truly have to experience to understand.

“It doesn’t take seven days to cross New York State. It takes seven hours, but you stretch it out and you see things. You see small towns. You see families who come out to help us. You connect with the community,” said Tom.

And after a year of planning, pivoting and preparing for this one-week-event, the result is an unforgettable journey, with memories to last a lifetime.

This is a group photo of several riders at #ESR22

From rider to volunteer, Janice Hetrick embodies the spirit of ESR

Janice Hetrick of Lancaster rode in her first Empire State Ride back in 2017. She says her friend proposed the idea and, at first, she was skeptical. After all, cycling 500+ miles across New York State is no easy feat. But after that first ride, ESR became a part of Janice – and Janice became a part of ESR.  

“It’s a time to concentrate, to think, to enjoy the beauty of New York State while you’re riding.”

The ride appealed to Janice for two reasons. First, she is a runner and athlete. ESR was a challenge she was prepared to tackle. Second, the mission to raise funds for cancer research resonated deeply with her.

Janice is a breast cancer survivor and several other family members have also battled cancer. In fact, her brother is currently being treated at Roswell Park for pancreatic cancer. She says ESR is her calling to give back.

Janice Hetrick at ESR

A community of thrivers

Janice Hetrick and her mother at the finish line

Of all the memories Janice has on the road at ESR, crossing the finish line for the first time is one that stands out.

“I saw my mom there. My mom is also a breast cancer survivor, and she was really leery of me doing the ride for the first time,” said Janice. “But then when she saw me at the finish line, she was crying away, saying, ‘I’m so proud of you. I’m so glad you did it.’

And in the process of getting to that finish line — Janice found community.

“We’re a family,” she explained. “Each year there’s more and more of us who have defeated cancer and are fighters, or if you want to call them thrivers.”

In 2022, a knee replacement kept Janice from being able to return as a rider. Still feeling compelled to be a part of the adventure, she decided to take on a different role at ESR.

From rider to volunteer

For #ESR22, Janice returned to the road as a volunteer for all seven days of the adventure. Along with her desire to give back, she brought an energy that kept the riders going.

“I still knew a lot of people who rode. So, each day, I would wear a different outfit for the different types of cancer.”

Janice took on a variety of tasks while volunteering, from manning one of the rest stops to squirting riders with a water gun when they needed a cooldown and assisting at the HUB (Hospitality Updates and Beverages), which is the central spot for rider information. With each job, she made it fun!

Although through a different lens, she even got to relive that moment of crossing the finish line.

“By volunteering, you are still capturing the moment of everyone arriving at camp just like you arrived at camp. You can see them pedaling and cheer them on. We all had bells and whistles. We cheered them on just as the volunteers cheered me on as I came into camp.”

The experience was so impactful that Janice plans on returning as a volunteer for #ESR23.

For others interested in volunteering, Janice said, “I would explain to them how emotional this is to volunteer. It’s captivating. It’s an uplifting experience.”

Group photo at ESR

Get the Empire State Ride Fundraising App

Enhance your fundraising with the ESR MyHub App.

Riding 500+ miles across New York State makes you a road warrior; raising critical funds for cancer research makes you a champion.

Let the ESR MyHUB app supercharge your fundraising efforts and get you ready for your Empire State Ride adventure.

This is an image of the ESR myHUB app home screen.
This image shows another screen capture of the ESR myHUB app homepage.

Here are some of the great things you can do with the app!

  • Personalize your fundraiser and track your fundraising progress
  • Accept in-person check donations with state-of-the-art scanning technology and bank-grade security feature
  • Send emails or SMS messages to your contacts asking for support and donations
  • Connect the app to your activity tracker. Earn badges and compete against fellow road warriors in fitness and fundraising challenges
  • Integrate with your ESR fundraising dashboard and Facebook fundraiser
  • Share your page on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • And much more!

How to get started.

The ESR MyHUB app is free to download in the App Store or Google Play. Search for “ESR MyHUB” wherever you download apps.

Use the User Name and Password that you set up to log into your Fundraising Dashboard. After your first login, you can also use facial recognition to get into your account.

If you have any questions about the fundraising app, please contact us!

Email: EmpireStateRide@RoswellPark.org  Phone: 716-845-3179

And for more fundraising tools, visit our fundraising page!

Charlie Livermore: Coach, Cycling Enthusiast, Cancer Survivor

Charlie Livermore's ESR Journey

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

With more than 30 years of experience as a professional cycling coach, Charlie Livermore has logged thousands of miles and helped countless cyclists reach their goals. He works as a pro-level contract coach at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) and has managed professional cycling teams in tours around the world. The BMC Racing Team, cofounded by Charlie, went on to win the Tour de France in 2011.

Charlie’s passion for cycling started decades ago when he bought a bike and subsequently met the president of the Florida Cycling Federation. The president invited Charlie to an upcoming race. Charlie accepted, conquered the race and never looked back.

“Cycling has been my life. I’m a prisoner of passion and discipline. It’s been a great life. I still coach, I’m still riding, and I’m still helping people. I love it. I’ll never stop doing it,” Charlie says.

Charlie rides at ESR.
Charlie and a fellow road warrior smile at Empire State Ride

On Empire State Ride.

Charlie’s involvement with Empire State Ride (ESR) can best be described as a perfect accident. A client needed to get in peak shape for a European cycling tour and pitched ESR as a training event to log his miles. Charlie agreed and joined him on the road in July 2015.

The duo planned to stay at hotels and eat at local restaurants to make it easier to adhere to their prescribed nutrition plan. Then they discovered the catering at camp and started to meet the ESR community. As Charlie got to know the other riders, he saw an opportunity to use his knowledge and become more involved.

He started giving fireside talks each night after dinner. During those chats, he shared tips and tricks for navigating the road and answered questions from new and experienced riders alike. His talks were so well-received that he was asked to come back the next year as a coach. He has returned every year since to set our road warriors up for success.   

“I’ve done all kinds of amazing one-week and two-week long vacations in my life and the one that I keep talking about the whole year is the Empire State Ride,” Charlie says. “It’s a lifetime of stories all packed up into one week.”

“It's a lifetime of stories all packed up into one week.”

Charlie’s reasons for coming back.

Charlie has joined Empire State Ride on the road for more than seven years now. For him, the event goes beyond his love for the sport of cycling. He connects to the ESR mission on a much deeper level.

“I never talk about it, but I’m also a cancer survivor. I resonate with what is going on, and I understand the studies and the clinical trials, because I went on a clinical trial that really made my outcome better. I’m still alive.”

Charlie was preparing for a cycling event in Europe when his cancer journey began. Between cycling regularly, running a cycling center and traveling to and from events, he maintained a healthy lifestyle and felt great. That’s what made what happened next even more surprising.

During a routine dental cleaning, Charlie’s dentist discovered a lump in his throat that wasn’t supposed to be there. He referred Charlie to a specialist to have it biopsied. When Charlie did, the results confirmed the worst-case scenario: throat cancer. He never smoked and realized quickly that a cancer diagnosis can happen to anyone.

Through a reference from a friend at Stanford University, Charlie got into a promising clinical trial for his specific type of cancer that involved less radiation. He signed up and began treatment, anxious for the upcoming cycling event in Europe. Luckily, Charlie took to treatment well and was able to get back to cycling sooner than later.

“I survived. But it would’ve been a completely different experience if I had gone through those three extra weeks of radiation that the normal protocol called for,” Charlie says. “When they talk about clinical trials at ESR, I understand the benefits and how much they can change the outcome. I have respect and passion for the research side of things, too.”

Charlie LIvermore paceline riding with other road warriors
Charlie Livermore holds sign with friends at halfway point.

A full-circle journey for Charlie, it’s no coincidence that he found ESR and the amazing community of road warriors he works with. He says his experience with cancer and love for cycling have made him even more grateful for the journey and connections he’s made with the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

“Empire State Ride is unique. What this organization is doing, and the passion around it, has been one of my biggest fulfillments in cycling. I look forward to the event every year.”

Proceeds directly benefit