Campus News

UB team members have personal connections to Ride for Roswell

The UB Spirit team goes for a practice ride before the Ride for Roswell takes place later in June.

Members of the UB Spirit team get ready to take a training ride. They are, from left, Mark Pietz, ride leader; Douglas Levere, team co-captain; Scott Bylewski, UB Alumni; Adam Graczyk, graduate student; Kristina Marco, graduate student; Frans Dewaal, community member; Chris McNamara, ride leader. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By ROBBY JOHNSON

Published June 13, 2018

“Cancer has touched me in many different ways. My mom has been gone for 18 years, so for 18 years we’ve been trying to fight this battle.”
Donna Czaja, senior staff assistant, University Business Services, cancer survivor, and participant
Ride for Roswell

As they have every year since 2004, members of the UB community will take part in the Ride for Roswell, one of the nation’s largest cycling events where all proceeds help support cancer research and patient care.

The UB Spirit team has raised more than $720,000 for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in those 14 years, The team continues to garner a lot of support — both on campus and off — and is close to meeting its fundraising goal for this year’s ride on June 23.

“It’s really fun and it’s a challenge to raise some money for a good cause,” says Douglas Levere, a co-captain of the UB team and a photographer for University Communications. “UB already does so much to support the ride and I’d love to see more faces from the campus involved in it. I hope more people become aware of it, that more people will ride, and that more will give donations to those that are riding.”

Levere is one of the many riders who have been affected by cancer in some way. He lost his mother to breast cancer four years ago and participates in the ride in her memory.

Donna Czaja, a senior staff assistant for University Business Services, is a cancer survivor, as is her father. She also lost her mother and her stepmother to the disease.

“Cancer has touched me in many different ways,” says Czaja. “My mom has been gone for 18 years, so for 18 years we’ve been trying to fight this battle.”

An avid supporter of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Czaja is taking part in the Ride for Roswell for the first time this year, along with her husband. She says it’s such a personal cause to her that she has to continue fighting toward a cure to a disease that’s affected so many.

“I have to give back in some way. It’s very close to my heart and my family, which is why my husband and I are doing it,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing all of the people out there and what it’s about.”

UB Spirit team heads out for a practice ride.

Co-captain Douglas Levere (blue shirt) leads the way as the team heads out for a training ride on the North Campus. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Phil Stevens, a cancer survivor and recently retired associate professor of anthropology, is making his 16th ride this year.

“[Participating in this event] and joining the thousands of riders who raise millions of dollars for cancer research and treatment is a great thrill to which I eagerly look forward every year,” says Stevens. “This will be my 16th ride, and this year I ride in memory of my mom’s siblings; my brother-in law, Jim Spencer; and Phyllis Hartrich, the anthropology department’s longtime undergraduate program coordinator, all victims of this terrible disease,” he says.

“I also ride in honor of survivors: my mother, who died in 2016, and Jason Hartrich, who made a generous gift to my ride in memory of his mom and in gratitude for his own survival.”

Stevens will also take part in the Ride for Roswell’s kickoff event, the Peloton, which is limited to riders who raise more than $1,000. The 12-mile procession the day before the ride will travel in a two-by-two formation, beginning at Roswell Park on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and ending at UB’s North Campus.

This year, registration fees for the UB Spirit team are being waived for the first 150 riders. Anyone from the UB community is encouraged to join the team or donate to other UB riders. The event features rides of distances ranging from 3 miles to just over 100, meaning there’s a ride for everyone.

Jay Friedman, the other co-captain of UB’s team and assistant athletic director for engagement, says that participating on UB’s team is a great way to meet and connect with others from the UB community. He also says that all the other people involved in the event make it worthwhile.

“My favorite part of the event is the people,” says Friedman. “Up until I actually got involved with the ride, I had no idea what people did out on the course. Every five to seven miles there are rest stops hosted by schools, churches or neighborhoods. You get an opportunity there as you stop with the hundreds of others stopping along the course to meet people and work together toward the same cause.”

Even if riding in the event isn’t for you, Czaja says every little bit of help toward the cause counts.

“Just do it. If you have a passion for something, you should jump in to help, she says. “A $5 donation makes a huge difference. If everyone did that, it would add up. Even if you don’t want to join the team, just come that day. If you just want to donate to someone on the team, that’s also making a step in the right direction.”

Those interested in joining the UB Spirit team or donating to support UB riders can find more information on the team’s webpage.

The Ride for Roswell has generated millions of dollars for the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, the nonprofit organization that manages all donations to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. The event has raised more than $4 million each year for the past five years. More information on the event can be found on its website.