By Thom Mariner
Led by a dedicated founding family and volunteers for the past 11 years, Ride Cincinnati has raised $2.8 million to support the fight against cancer.
Now, Western & Southern, the event’s longtime partner and sponsor, is launching a new initiative intended to make Ride Cincinnati “the premier grassroots fundraising event in Cincinnati.”
John Barrett – Western & Southern chairman, president and CEO – announced the new effort, along with his wife wife, Eileen, longtime volunteer and advocate for Ride Cincinnati, and Dr. William Barrett, director of the UC Health Barrett Cancer Center.
One major goal in raising the profile of this cancer-focused fundraiser is to bring the coveted National Cancer Institute designation to Cincinnati.
“Cincinnati needs and deserves an NCI-designated cancer center for the benefit of people living in our community,” said Dr. Barrett. “This is a community-wide effort, and we expect every patient, provider and health system in the region to benefit. No one wants this diagnosis, but if you have to face this adversary, we want Cincinnati to be the very best place in the world to be.“Our goal is to be the smartest city in the world when it comes to treating cancer” -Dr. John Barrett
“Our goal is to be the smartest city in the world when it comes to treating cancer,” he added, creating an “atmosphere of discovery” that will attract the best and brightest.
The NCI designation is seen as the ultimate third-party stamp of approval for the capabilities of a region in fighting cancer. Cincinnati is among the largest markets lacking this designation, and the hope is to make application within the next three years. The 1,500-page application is considered “the most rigorous in all of science,” according to Dr. Barrett.
Ride Cincinnati has secured the guidance of Thomas Lennox to expand its family-friendly ride, scheduled for June 9-10 this year. Lennox, himself a cancer survivor, founded Pelatonia in Columbus, Ohio, taking that cycling event from a simple fundraising concept to a $19 million-per-year event in only five years. His first year leading Pelatonia, the event attracted 2,265 riders and raised $4.5 million.
He left in 2014 to begin his own consulting company and share his expertise across other markets, and he will serve as “advisory partner” to the Ride Cincinnati organization, steering administrative, financial and operational growth.
Lennox’s focus is on creating a better overall experience for riders, to inspire their participation and to fuel their individual fundraising efforts. “We want to make this a must-do event,” said Lennox. He plans a pre-race celebration the day before and is instituting new incentives for top fundraisers.
This is where “grassroots” comes in to play. Riders will be required to commit to raising a minimum amount depending on the length of ride they choose – five levels ranging from 8 miles ($50) to 100 miles ($500).
Ride Cincinnati plans to raise more than $500,000 for cancer research this year (double the total for 2017), while laying the foundation for millions more in the years ahead. As with previous Rides, 100 percent of all rider-raised funds go to fighting cancer.
One in three women and one in two men in Greater Cincinnati will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. John Barrett, who has chaired regional campaigns to benefit the arts and social services, emphasized several times that this new effort the “most important” campaign he has led.