This past June, veteran rider Norma Stading and her husband relocated to Minnesota to be closer to their family. And while they were excited to start their lives in the beautiful Midwest, that meant missing The Ride For Roswell. But Norma, who’s been a rider since 2006, knew she had to figure out how to bring The Ride to Minnesota. Norma has a long relationship with The Ride For Roswell, with cancer and with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. She’s one of the first members of the now-famous Kids Just Want To Have Fun team. She’s always ridden in memory of her brother Jim and her father, Jack, both of whom battled lung cancer, which eventually spread throughout their whole bodies. Her husband was also a patient at Roswell Park. Missing The Ride and the opportunity to raise critical funds for cancer research was just not an option. Their move to the Midwest came a week before The Ride. Because Norma had already signed up for The Ride, and not only raised the minimum but became an Extra Mile Club member, she decided to participate in her very own Ride – 950 miles away – in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Ride For Roswell
So Saturday, June 23, Norma grabbed her bike, her 2018 EMC jersey and her helmet and hit the bike paths of Minnesota. Norma didn’t have a real plan, and she didn’t know where she was going, but she did know she wanted to feel a part of The Ride. She actually ended up in Minneapolis and rode over the St. Paul Bridge, something that was on her bucket list! Minnesota is full of great bike trails that are more like roads, with signs and dividers, so Norma stayed on the paths the whole time. However, at mile 15, she got a flat tire, and her husband had to come get her, which was a bit bittersweet because there were no riding marshals or SAG vehicles to help her. Even though it was different from the conventional Ride, Norma still had fun and has plans to continue this new tradition in 2019. She said she’s hoping to register as a virtual rider and get a group of friends at her townhouse complex to do it together. And when asked why she continues to participate in The Ride, no matter what else is going on in her life, Norma has the best answer. “I can’t cure cancer, but I can sure help.”
Some things just go together perfectly, like peanut butter and jelly or Providence Creek Farm and The Ride For Roswell. Ben Gehl is the owner of Providence Creek Farm in Clarence Center, New York, and his connection to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is strong. When he realized that two Ride For Roswell routes would pass by his family’s farm this year, he knew it was meant to be. Ben’s father has been battling prostate cancer for several years and is being treated at Roswell Park. About six months ago, the family learned that the cancer had metastasized to his spine. Despite treatment, tumors have paralyzed him from the chest down. During one of his many trips to Roswell, he discovered that two Ride routes — the 65-mile and the 102-mile country — would pass right by the farm, and he wanted to do something to support it. “We were interested in seeing if our family could do a small part in giving back to Roswell, which has worked so tirelessly for my father,” Ben said. And thus a comfortable rest stop was born.
The Providence Creek Farm Rest Stop
The Ride provided infrastructure — tents, tables, food, water, etc. — and Ben’s family provided the location and a lot of enthusiasm. “We had nearly 30 people ringing bells, making signs, blowing noisemakers and cheering,” he said. “We had kids scattered all over the front yard, with some even in the barn loft.” The family saw over 100 riders stop at their farm for water, snacks and a place to rest. The kids especially loved cheering on the riders, and Ben said the riders loved the encouragement. And they’re already ready for next year! “Our family has a great recipe for homemade donuts,” Ben said. “We are thinking about handing them out to riders next year!” While no one in his family has ever done The Ride, Ben said seeing the difference an enthusiastic cheering squad can make changed their minds. Several of them are adding The Ride to their bucket list. The inspiration for the Gehl family rest stop was Ben’s dad. And he was there, cheering on all the riders! “As our leader, he has imbued our family with an ethic of joy, hospitality and encouragement,” Ben said. “My parents have always had an open door policy at their home. Growing up, we had a steady stream of folks coming through the house. We were always ready to add another plate at the table.” It’s clear that Ben is continuing that open door policy, including with The Ride. They just go together – like PB&J.