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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.

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

Volunteer feature: Meet Ken

Meet Ken Flynn

Meet Dax, Ken’s four-legged road warrior

It’s a tall ask for someone to take a full week off work to join the Empire State Ride team on the road, but 46-year-old Ken Flynn doesn’t mind one bit. For him, it’s a family affair. His wife, Amy, tackles ESR as a road warrior, and Ken follows her from stop to stop with their golden retriever, Dax (above). They bring their camper, and Ken helps the ESR team while his wife is riding.

We sat down (virtually!) with Ken to hear his reasons for getting involved.

Q&A

Why do you volunteer for Empire State Ride?

I volunteer to be a supportive partner for my wife on a quest that means so much to her.

How did you get started with Empire State Ride?

My best friend knows Terry Bourgeois and told my wife and me about the ride. My wife and friend, Ben, planned to do the ride together in 2020; Ben’s wife and I planned to volunteer for the week while they were on the road. Ben, unfortunately, had to back out, but my wife was committed. 

She rides for her mother and her aunts who battled various forms of cancer. She lost her one aunt to pancreatic cancer.

What do your accommodations look like for the week?

I pull along our camper for a comfortable bed and air-conditioning at night. I even purchased a new truck to make it easier to tow my RV.

Why did you decide to come back again this year?

My wife and I both said this was going to be a one and done thing. That idea lasted about two days. It has turned into so much more than just volunteering for a week on the road. We have made incredible new friends and heard amazing stories that keep us coming back to help. The riders are truly amazing!

What’s one memory you have from being on the road?

The Regulators (left) are a team that came together last year that generally brings up the rear of the pack, coming in late almost every day. This team stayed at the back and helped so many who were struggling. Because of them, every one of these struggling riders was able to overcome and conquer the road. Seeing this is another reason why I have to come back for more.

What are you most looking forward about this year’s event?

Last year, I met so many great people, many of whom were survivors or currently battling cancer. The stories, emotions, people, food and overall cause is what makes it easy to return as a volunteer again in 2022.

Any last thoughts?

Nothing was going to stop me from volunteering for such an important cause. All I had to do was put in for vacation time.

 

Luckily, you don’t have to put in for vacation time to get involved as a volunteer for Empire State Ride. Volunteers are needed daily on the route, and you can sign up for a shift that fits your life. Learn more and sign up below.

Join Ken at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

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