Mitch Flynn has been committed to The Ride For Roswell since he got it rolling in 1996 to give people a new way to fight cancer. Now there’s a special section of the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center campus devoted to honoring the many dedicated and seemingly tireless volunteers, donors, and riders who have turned The Ride into Western New York’s largest single-day fundraising event.
It’s called Pathways Park, and it’s located at the corner of Carlton and Ellicott streets at the west entrance to the Roswell Park campus, in the grassy space in front of Carlton House. It was officially dedicated in June 2017.
Pathways Park grew out of the stainless steel sculpture entitled “Pathways to Hope” that was installed as a surprise tribute to Mitch in 2015.
Mitch was flabbergasted that people wanted to do this for him. But he also knew that credit for The Ride’s success belongs to literally hundreds of other people. So after that reveal in 2015, and with the help of other longtime riders and volunteers, he started planning The Ride’s own version of a hall of fame.
The idea was to inscribe bricks with the names of key individuals in the Ride’s history and place them in the patio surrounding the sculpture. “We recognized about 120 people last year, and we’ll recognize new people every year going forward,” Mitch says. “This includes top lifetime fundraisers, top youth fundraisers, top 10 fundraisers from each year, volunteers of the year, and steering committee members. There are also bricks lining the patio circumference that are inscribed with each year’s fundraising and rider totals, and there’s space for another 75 years’ worth of results.”
“In a way, it’s The Ride’s version of a hall of fame without being in a building. Having a dedicated space on the campus is significant because all the other dedicated spaces at Roswell have a research or treatment or patient quality-of-life purpose. The purpose of Pathways Park is different. It’s meant to give people a place to pause and reflect on The Ride’s role in supporting the work to find cancer cures that goes on all around it.”
The team also wanted to give the space some park-like amenities, Mitch says, like benches. “My other hope for the park – and we’re working on this now – is to be able to implement enough other small things around it that it becomes not just a resting spot or a nice place to sit and take in the view, but also a destination.”
“The general sense you get on Ride Day is of this rarefied atmosphere that is generated by all these committed and passionate people,” he says. “If that can be collected and take the shape of a sculpture or a park that people can use as a reminder of the purpose and the power of the event, then Pathways Park has done its job.“