You don’t have to ride 500+ miles to enjoy everything that Empire State Ride has to offer. Our volunteers play a key role in the community, bringing the event to life and encouraging our road warriors along the journey.
Some volunteers help on the road for the entire seven-day experience; others offer their assistance for a day or a few hours. Regardless of the role, each volunteer is essential to ESR.
Meet Your Volunteer Coordinator
“I would love for everybody to get to experience what the Empire State Ride truly is at its core. It’s people coming together for one cause,” said Ashley Gracie, senior volunteer coordinator. “To see that play out each day and then to hear these intimate stories that people share as their why is truly phenomenal. It really motivates you to want to do more.”
Among Ashley’s many tasks, she is responsible for building up the volunteer presence at ESR. 2022 was her first year on the ESR team, and it was also the first year of fully utilizing seven-day volunteers. They were integral to the journey from the kickoff all the way through the finish line, helping at rest stops and the campsites.
Ashley and the team also work to get people from each township involved along the way. Of the one-day volunteers, their reasons for getting involved varied. Some were riders in their own communities who wanted to learn more about ESR, others were former ESR road warriors who live in those respective areas and many were a part of organizations interested in giving back to the cause.
“If you have just a couple hours to share, I promise it’s going to be worth your while,” Ashley explained. “It’s something that stays with you, the experience itself. It’s why we have so many riders come back every year. It’s why we have volunteers come back every year.”
Hear From a Weeklong Volunteer
Janice Hetrick of Lancaster is a rider turned volunteer. She took part in ESR as a rider for the first time in 2017. Due to a knee replacement in 2022, still feeling compelled to be a part of the experience, she decided to take on a different role at ESR. 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.
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!
“It’s captivating. It’s an uplifting experience,” Janice explained.
The experience was so impactful that Janice plans on returning as a volunteer for #ESR23.
Hear From a One-Day Volunteer
Gail Green-Anderson of New York City and her husband Rick are both one-day volunteers at ESR. Cycling is a part of the fabric of their relationship.
“My husband and I met while cycling. It was 1998, and we both went to the wrong starting point for a Five Borough Bike Club Labor Day Ride, and we spotted each other,” said Gail with a smile. “We eventually got married, and cycling is a really important part of our life.”
For ESR, Gail and Rick greeted riders as they came off the Staten Island Ferry, cheered them on and made sure they were headed in the right direction. It was the perfect way for them to get involved since they know the area well, both from living nearby and from riding their bikes all over New York City.
Gail explained seeing the riders embark on their journey was incredibly rewarding.
“What struck me were the big smiles on their faces,” said Gail. “Sometimes at the beginning of a big athletic event, people look anxious. These people did not look anxious. They knew why they were there. They had a sense of purpose. They had been prepared. They were on their way. I got to play a small role, saying, ‘Go that way!’”
For people who live in municipalities along the #ESR23 route who are considering signing up to volunteer, Gail says – “Just do it!”
She and her husband plan to help again this summer, and as she reflects on previous years, she says her volunteer experience has been worthwhile.
With tears in her eyes Gail explained, “For people who have sustained tremendous loss of loved ones to look that happy and that energetic doing something that addresses that loss – that’s pretty remarkable.”
An opportunity for you
Whether you have an hour, a day or a week – you can make a difference on Empire State Ride.
There are dozens of volunteer opportunities and multiple shifts available. Tasks range from camp setup, to greeting riders, cheering participants on at the finish line and more!
See the full list of opportunities here.
By giving your time as a volunteer, you’re fueling the ESR mission to end cancer.
“That’s why I fight. That’s why I put so much passion and dedication into making the best experience possible so we can get more and more people involved,” said Ashley.
Questions about volunteering? Contact Ashley Gracie at Ashley.Gracie@RoswellPark.org.