Fearless fundraising: How you can make an impact

If you’re thinking about signing up for Empire State Ride Long Island or you’re trying to convince friends to join you, you may have questions about fundraising. Your fundraising efforts fuel critical research that directly impacts the lives of cancer patients at Catholic Health Cancer Institutes on Long Island and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. Every dollar you raise generates $13 in additional new research grant funding, meaning your support goes a long way.

It’s now easier than ever to join us for the summer event of the season. All you have do is raise $100 toward cancer research. Your registration fee counts toward that goal, and we have you covered with fundraising tips to help you with the rest.

Check out these words of advice from fellow cyclists and fundraisers.

1. Let your donors know their impact is huge. 

“From a fundraising standpoint, it’s really important for riders to stress that every dollar you raise gets multiplied by 13. When you can show that financial impact, it is huge. People buy $10 worth of raffle tickets, for example, and it becomes $130 in grant research dollars. When you start putting it like that, it’s really easy for someone to give that $10. If you give me a hundred dollars, now it becomes $1,300 in grant research money. The power of that is amazing.”

–  Shelley Unocic

2. Don’t be afraid to ask. 

“My father always said, ‘If you don’t ask, all they can do is say no.’ Right now, what I do for fundraising for team GBY9 is mail out 400 letters. Anybody that I know gets a letter —my doctor, my lawyer, the cleaners, whoever. Anybody I know will receive a letter. And that’s how I do my fundraising.”

– Maria Thor

3. Remind people what it’s all about.

“I hit and bring to heart what it is really about. It isn’t really about the cycling, which is the fun part, but it’s about how we support the Roswell Park community and help with the fundraising for the clinical trial processes.”

–  Richard Noll

4. Use your contacts. 

“I use a very simple process. What I do is this: Every night at this time of the year, as I’m watching TV, I open my fundraising app and go into my phonebook, and I send personalized text messages with the link. Hey, Steve, it’s Rich. Hope all is well. As you know, this is my fifth year riding for Roswell. I would love your support again. I go through one letter of the alphabet every night. Then I go through my emails. Then I go back, and I start making personal phone calls.”

– Richard Noll

5. Give people something in return. 

“Try to do things that people can actually get something else out of, as well. Instead of just asking them to hand over a donation, ask them to put money toward a dinner or raffle.”

– Erica Pompey

6. Team together. 

“Everyone on our team went out and got donations. We purchased some things on our own and put baskets together. One hundred percent of those proceeds are going back to our team goal.”

–  Shelley Unocic

However you choose to fundraise, we can’t wait to see you at the start line on July 23.

 Read more about your impact. 


Long Island’s distinguished DJ is doing it. Will you?

If you live on Long Island and have ever cranked up the radio, chances are, you’ve heard DJ Syke on 106.1 BLI or 102.3 WBAB. He’s the host of the morning show, playing the top 40 hits that get everyone moving to start their day. He’s a staple in his community, loves his listeners and is always up for new experiences. But did you know he’s also an advocate in the fight to end cancer? This year, DJ Syke will be back in the saddle for the second annual Empire State Ride Long Island!

We sat down with DJ Syke to hear his story. Check it out:

What inspired you to get involved with Empire State Ride Long Island?

As a DJ, I have a platform I can use for good, and I want to use it for as much good as I can. Anytime there are charity events or fundraising opportunities, specifically for cancer research, I look to do as much as I can. My sister-in-law passed away from colon cancer a few years ago. She left behind two kids. From that point on, I said, ‘I want to do everything I can to get involved with that community, to give back and raise as much money as I can.’

How do you think your sister-in-law would feel about you participating in Empire State Ride Long Island? 

She would love this. If she were here, she would be doing it with me. She would be the person who would bring this event to me and be like, ‘Oh, there’s a really cool bike ride you should take part in.’ And even if she didn’t know anybody with cancer or have any connection to the disease, she’d be out there raising money for people — that’s just who she was. She was very community-oriented and always wanted to instill that in her girls, too.

How does it feel to know your efforts are directly supporting cancer care and research? 

We’re doing some good, and we’re raising money for an incredible cause. I’m super proud to be a part of it and to help in any way that I can.

Are you pretty good on a bike?

I’m not an avid cyclist. I know how to ride a bike and avoid falling over, and that’s pretty much my experience. But I love getting out there and just breathing fresh air and taking in the sites and scenery. When I can get out there and ride and be with my own thoughts, it just decompresses me.

You did Empire State Ride Long Island last year. What’s the best part?

It’s a great day out with your family! What kid doesn’t love to ride their bike? And I think parents sometimes forget how fun it is to ride a bike. Every time I get back on mine, I think, ‘Wow, this really is the most fun activity out there.’ It’s easier than running, and it’s a big old party afterward with everyone in the park hanging out.

What was your favorite part of the 10-mile route last year? 

Going over the water right at the beginning when you have that narrow bridge. You’re going across it, and you see these beautiful homes. It was such a nice day weather-wise, and the scenery and setting were perfect for a ride. I don’t really know if they could have done a better job of finding a location for it than Oyster Bay.

What advice do you have for anyone who’s nervous about doing a cycling event?

I’m a big fan of advising people to take risks and do different things. Sometimes when you get out of your comfort zone, the most rewarding experiences happen in life. There are so many different options for people doing Empire State Ride Long Island, and there is something for everybody.

Any last thoughts?

Come down to the event and see what it’s all about. Empire State Ride Long Island is diverse. It is inclusive. Everybody is going to have a great time.

Join DJ Syke on July 23 for the summer event you do not want to miss!

Black Girls Do Bike Takes on Empire State Ride Long Island

For Katia Celifie Aime, cycling means community. The sport has the power to heal, unify and empower people, especially women of color. Katia runs the Long Island chapter of a group called Black Girls Do Bike. As a “Shero,” a local leader in the group, Katia has created a safe space for women of color in her community to gather together and share their joy of movement and biking. Now, the group is setting its sights on Empire State Ride Long Island.

Black Girls Do Bike Long Island 

Black Girls Do Bike is a national organization with more than 100 chapters across the United States, plus a chapter in Antigua. The group welcomes people of all genders and races who share a common goal of advancing the health and wellbeing of women of color.

On Long Island, Black Girls Do Bike meets twice weekly during the summertime, offering options for everyone from advanced to beginner cyclists. They also offer workshops on riding fundamentals and bike maintenance and repair.

When Katia founded the local chapter a couple years back, she sought to break ground. As someone who loves cycling and has been riding for more than a decade, she was often discouraged by how few women of color were involved in the sport.

“Women of color historically have not been cycling so much,” Katia says. “Now, we’ve created a place where we can come to and say, ‘I am welcome here.’ But everyone else who wants to support us is welcome, as well.”

Thanks to Katia’s hard work and dedication, the group now has close to 300 members who gather together to stay healthy while inspiring and uplifting one another. Now, Katia and her team have decided to set their sights on tackling a health issue that hits close to home: cancer. Specifically, breast cancer.

“Empire State Ride came in right on time, because we’re seeing a lot of our cyclists — a lot of our females — being diagnosed [with cancer]. We’re getting this kind of news constantly,” Katia says. “When I heard about the Empire State Ride Long Island, which is a beautiful, beautiful cycling event, I said, ‘It’s a win-win.’ We’re raising awareness. We’re showing the world that we’re cycling women of color, and we’re here, too. We are battling and fighting for a cure while empowering women to cycle for their health.”

Black Girls Do Bike Across the Nation

Monica Garrison, the founder and executive director of Black Girls Do Bike nationally, says each chapter has naturally been drawn to different health causes, and she’s proud to see the Long Island chapter taking a stand against cancer.

“I think we all know that getting on the bike and cycling regularly can help stave off diseases and conditions that affect our community and people of color disproportionately,” Monica says. “It’s almost a no-brainer to want to do something to get in the fight and help these causes.”

For Monica, cycling also helps with mental health, allowing her time to think and process the busyness of day-to-day life. As the founder of this national effort, Monica oversees the photography, design work and other creative concepts for the organization. She often comes up with some of her best ideas while in the saddle. For that reason, and many more, Monica wants to see more women taking up the sport.

“Just get on your bike and go. The rest will follow,” she says. “If there’s a Black Girls Do Bike chapter within 10 or 20 miles of you, then seek it out. We want to open up a new world to women and women of color.”

Getting ready for the ride

Katia will cover the 62-mile route this July in Oyster Bay with her fellow Black Girls Do Bike Long Island “Co-Shero,” as well as her husband. Katia hopes to motivate more people in her group to get involved in the cause while enjoying an activity that she describes as pure magic. She’s already started to get her nine-year-old granddaughter, Bella, involved in the sport. She’s doing everything she can to bring together her love of biking and helping others. 

“In life, we have to put our best foot forward. We have to try to make a difference, and it’s my belief that exercise can cure everything. So, if I can help you to exercise to get you through this, and I’m raising money for the research, I’m doing my part.”

Cancer care across New York State

Your fundraising efforts make an impact!

Cancer care on Long Island and across New York State

When you fundraise for Empire State Ride (ESR) Long Island, you’re making a difference by fueling cancer research, clinical trials and care coordination for cancer patients on Long Island and in Western New York. That statewide impact is possible through the Roswell Park Care Network, centered in Buffalo at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, America’s first cancer center to focus exclusively on cancer research.

The funds raised through ESR Long Island will support cancer care at Roswell Park and its partner Catholic Health on Long Island, an affiliate of the Care Network. This collaboration enables direct access to the newest, most innovative treatments available only through clinical trials for patients under the skillful care of Catholic Health clinicians.

The Roswell Park Care Network is the most expansive community cancer, supportive and specialized care affiliation, spanning across New York State. This network of physicians and supportive care teams is committed to reducing the burden of cancer and bringing outstanding, comprehensive, guidelines-based care to people throughout New York State.

“The purpose of the Roswell Park Care Network, it’s very mission-driven,” says Roswell Park Chief of Strategy, Business Development and Outreach Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, who leads the Care Network. “It’s really to bring everything that makes Roswell Park special out to as many folks in New York State as possible.”

Part of the unique benefit of the Roswell Park Care Network is the access its partners have to clinical trials at Roswell Park. A clinical trial is a study designed to evaluate a promising new medical treatment before it can be made widely available to patients. Researchers develop new treatments for physicians to administer to patients who have enrolled in the trial and follow their progress. Physicians then report their observations back to researchers who focus their efforts accordingly.

When clinical trials identify effective treatments, these treatments will eventually become the new standard of care that will be offered to future patients. Today’s standard treatments were researched and proven by clinical trials done in the past.

Catholic Health provides the highest level of personalized cancer care designed to treat the whole person and not just the disease. At Catholic Health, patients don’t have to travel far from home for a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach that addresses nutritional, social, emotional and spiritual needs to complement advanced medical options.

“In addition to the latest therapies offered through clinical trials, if a patient requires other specialty services and they walk into the offices of one of our affiliate providers like Catholic Health, they will have access to the expertise of Roswell Park’s subspecialists in Buffalo should it be needed,” says Dr. Schwaab. “Modern cancer care is an intricate symphony, coordinating different types of care and services. Catholic Health and Roswell Park work in concert to provide the best care available to patients on Long Island.”

Too many communities across New York have not had access to this expert level of care based on national best practices that centers like Roswell Park help to define. Catholic Health offers deep local insight together with world-class cancer care to local communities through its Care Network membership.  

“Being able to deliver top-tier care coordination to patients outside of Buffalo is a great priority,” says Dr. Schwaab.

You have a unique opportunity to support this partnership and bring the newest, promising cancer therapies to Long Island communities through ESR Long Island.

Tackling Hills

Whether you’re new to cycling or an experienced cyclist, tackling hills can be a challenge. Riders for the 10-mile course for Empire State Ride Long Island can expect a relatively flat route with one hill in the final two miles, but those completing the 25- and 62-mile courses will experience greater elevation changes. Don’t let that scare you! Preparing for elevation makes you stronger and helps you get the most out of your ride. We’ve got you covered with tips from two of Long Island’s most avid cyclists.

To start, familiarize yourself with the course. Check out all three routes here.

As you can see, the starting line at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park sits at sea level. From there, there will be a series of rolling hills for the 25-mile route. For the 62-mile route, you’ll need to tackle a larger hill during the final stretch of the ride. Once you’ve conquered that hill, it will bring you to Theodore Roosevelt’s beautiful summer home, making it well worth the challenge.

So, what’s the secret to successful hill riding?

Name Your Enemy

For long-time runner turned cyclist Phil Zodda from Brooklyn, it all comes down to naming your enemy. Phil helps organize a group of riders every year for the weeklong Empire State Ride called the Dragon Slayers. The name, inspired by a patch made by a fellow rider, has come to symbolize the grit and determination it takes to “slay” the difficult, uphill portions of the course. The “dragon” represents both cancer and obstacles like hills. Anytime you’re riding uphill and reach the peak, you’ve just slayed your dragon.

This takes practice, Phil says. “It’s a matter of putting time in a saddle. Change your RPMs and your pace. Push hard for a few minutes, then back off. Simulate what it would be like to expend energy going up a hill.”

Practice Riding on Hills

Richard Noll, a cyclist from Oyster Bay, regularly rides around with an unofficial cycling group called the Long Island Rough Riders. The group is named after Theodore Roosevelt’s historic cavalry and rides together on the weekends, often covering between 40 and 100 miles.

Richard says that you should seek out hills before event day to practice riding through elevation changes. Find hills and practice going up and down them. If you live in an area that’s relatively flat, he suggests finding a bridge or using a vacant parking ramp (when it’s safe to do so) to simulate an incline.

Above all else, though, Richard says that you should remember the real reason you’re tackling hills and riding in Empire State Ride Long Island: to end cancer. And you’re riding with other people who are riding for the same reason. Plus, you get to challenge yourself in the process.

“In terms of a physical challenge: What greater way to improve yourself than to do something you’ve never done before? Hop in, take the challenge,” he says.

A Few Final Tips

Our route expert at the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, Thomas Johnston, added that new riders should remember a few additional pointers for success:

  1. Shift gears on hills. If you don’t know how to, talk to your local bike shop before the event.
  2. Watch for sand. On Long Island, there can be sand accumulations on the bottom of hills. Take it easy on the downhill to stay safe.
  3. Most importantly: Have fun! You’re going to ride past beaches and the Long Island Sound. You’ll find narrow winding roads and quiet lanes. Afterward, you can enjoy everything Oyster Bay has to offer. Don’t forget to enjoy the sites.

Fundraising Made Easy: Connect Your Dashboard With Facebook

Fundraising is a challenge, but when armed with the right tools and attitude, it’s easier than you think. One of the best tools to help with your fundraising is integrating your online fundraising dashboard with your personal Facebook page. This utilization allows you to easily spread the word about your fundraiser and track your progress right on Facebook.

You can also quickly send updates on your progress, making it that much easier to reach your goal. Additionally, your friends and family can donate when scrolling through their newsfeeds. The best part? Your progress will be reflected in your fundraising thermometer, both on Facebook and on your Empire State Ride Long Island fundraising page.


1. Log in to your fundraising dashboard

Access your dashboard through the Empire State Ride website, by clicking “log in” in the top right corner. Open Facebook in a separate tab and log in.

2. Scroll down and click “Edit Fundraiser Content”

Locate the blue box in your dashboard that says, “Raise Money Directly on Facebook.” In that box, click, “Edit Fundraiser Content.”


  • If mobile doesn’t work for you, try connecting on a desktop and make sure that pop-ups are not blocked in your browser.
  • Edit your Facebook content, including your title and story, before connecting to Facebook.
  • When you’re ready, click “Save and Connect Fundraiser to Facebook.”

4. After being redirected to Facebook, follow the prompts.

  • If you’ve used Facebook fundraising for the Empire State Ride Long Island before, you will not receive any pop-ups. Instead, you’ll receive a notification on Facebook saying your fundraiser is live. On your fundraising dashboard, the blue box button will change to say, “Go to Facebook Fundraiser.”

6. Promote your Facebook Fundraiser by sharing or inviting people to your fundraiser to start getting donations!

This tool will allow you to spread the word about your fundraiser, engage directly with donors and reach more people than you ever thought possible.

Seven Creative Ways to Fundraise

Empire State Ride Long Island will be here before you know it!

One critical part of a successful charity bike ride is the ability to raise funds and make an impact. Check out our favorite tips to help you reach and exceed your fundraising goals – and have fun while doing it.

  1. Get social. They don’t call it social media for nothing. Share your fundraising page on all your social platforms to spread the word that you’re raising funds to end cancer.

  2. Tap into tech. When it comes to fundraising, there are tons of ways to use technology to your advantage. Try going live on social media and talking about fundraising, make a video asking for donations or share a link to your ESR Long Island fundraiser on your Twitch stream.

  3. Be daring. Use your fundraising as an opportunity to challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone. Do a pushup for every dollar you raise. Make an origami swan each time someone donates. Whatever you choose, make it a challenge that will get people buzzing.

  4. Play to your strengths. Everyone’s good at something. By playing to your strengths — be it crafting, singing, running or anything else — you can take your fundraising to the next level.

  5. Make it an event. Fundraising can really bring people together. Try hosting an event like a dinner, jam session or art class where the proceeds go toward your fundraising goal. Just be safe and follow recommended COVID-19 precautions.

  6. Find a community partner. Visit local businesses and ask them about ways they can help raise funds for your Ride. They may donate, match your donation or offer you a space to promote your Ride. Click here to see if your business has a matching gift program.

  7. Tell a friend (or 10). Nothing beats word of mouth. Tell your friends and family what you’re doing and ask them to spread the word! You can also talk to other riders for more inspiration.

Follow any of these 7 tips and you’ll exceed your fundraising goal before hitting the road on ESR Long Island.

Facebook Fundraising 101

Now that you’ve officially signed up for Empire State Ride Long Island, you may be wondering how to reach your $200 fundraising minimum.

Facebook is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reach people, share your story and ask for donations. Through the platform, you can choose to do an integrated or organic fundraiser. If you don’t know the difference, check out Facebook Fundraising 101.

Regardless of the fundraiser you choose, here are six tips to make your efforts on Facebook even more impactful.

  1. Personalize it. Be sure to include your story when you share your fundraising link with your followers. Tell your followers your reason for doing ESR Long Island and your reason for wanting to end cancer. Write from your heart — people respond to authenticity.
  2. Get creative. Pay attention to the overall look and feel of your post. You can get creative (and boost engagement) by adding pictures, using emojis or including memes.
  3. Ask friends to share your fundraiser. Identify trusted friends or family members and ask them to share your fundraiser on their Facebook pages or other social media platforms. This increases your audience and may land you donations you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
  4. Go live. Livestreaming is one of the fast-growing ways to communicate online, and you can do it right on your Facebook platform. Start a Facebook Live session to talk about why you’re riding in ESR Long Island and engage directly with your followers.
  5. Consider using an incentive. People are motivated by incentives. Consider incentivizing donations by offering to do something entertaining when you hit a certain fundraising goal. For example, try doing 20 pushups for every $20 you raise and then livestream your pushup session!
  6. Show gratitude. One of the most important things you can do when someone donates to your fundraiser is to thank them. Make sure you send a digital thank you card or drop a friendly note in Messenger. If someone posts on your fundraiser, respond. Sharing gratitude shows people you appreciate their support.

That’s it! Follow these easy tips, and your Facebook fundraiser is sure to be a success. For more fundraising tips, check out Seven Creative Ways to Fundraise.

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Elm & Carlton Streets
Buffalo, NY 14263​


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