Ride Cincinnati donates $1.5M to cancer research ahead of 2024 event

Ride Cincinnati raised a record $1.5 million to fund cancer research in 2023. Months ahead of this year’s rendition of the annual cycling event, organizers already predict this September’s ride will have just as large an impact, if not bigger.

On Jan. 27, Ride Cincinnati representatives John Barrett, Allison Gordon and Miles McDowell traveled to Fifth Third Arena to present a check to the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center during a UC men’s basketball game.

Accepting the check on behalf of the Cancer Center were its co-directors, Drs. Syed Ahmad and William Barrett. William Barrett is John Barrett’s brother.

To date, Ride Cincinnati has raised more than $8.1 million, with most of that going to the Cancer Center and UC. More than 10,000 cyclists have taken part.

“It’s always inspiring to see the start line full of business and community leaders who’ve come together, united against cancer,” said John Barrett, president and CEO of Western & Southern.

Working to combat cancer for 17 years

Dr. Harvey Harris and his family started Ride Cincinnati in 2007 as a way to honor Harvey’s late wife, Marlene. She passed away from breast cancer.

Harris, an avid cyclist, sought to raise funds for life-saving cancer treatment and research, but he wanted to do things a bit differently than the traditional fundraising galas and events.

In a way, the Ride Cincinnati format mirrors its mission by promoting healthy living and physical wellness, William Barrett said. Cycling and exercise are great for cardiovascular health, he said, but they can also help in the fight against cancer.

“This isn’t a race,” William Barrett said. “It’s more about participation and getting people out there for health reasons.” 

“People train and exercise all summer to get ready,” he continued. “In many respects, it’s helping communities get healthier.”

This year’s ride on Sept. 14 begins at Sawyer Point in downtown Cincinnati. Riders can choose from one of five course options – 10, 15, 24, 36 and 64 miles, also known as a 100K.

McDowell, Ride Cincinnati’s director of marketing and production, called 2023 the most successful year for not only fundraising but also rider experience. Organizers made several changes last year, including updated course routes, focused on making a “more engaging event.”

This year, a kickoff party will take place Sept. 13, the night before the full day of cycling that’ll follow. Ride Cincinnati also hosts a free victory celebration every year to welcome back participants. It’ll take place at Sawyer Point, also the ride’s end point.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming riders to the most energetic and exciting ride to date later this year,” McDowell said. 

Every dollar counts

William Barrett stressed that there are many novel cancer research projects in the pipelines that could lead to innovative treatments or studies. However, to get those projects the major and necessary federal funding – think, the $1 million to $10 million range – they need to show initial results.

In general, less than 10% of all requests for research funding have a realistic chance of getting major federal funding, William Barrett said. “That’s where Ride Cincinnati comes in.”

Ride Cincinnati and other such events provide all-important initial funding that allows researchers to collect the preliminary data needed to secure major dollars from the federal government or large health organizations.

Cancer patients rang the bell at Saturday’s basketball game.
(Photo courtesy UC Cancer Center)

Most of the money Ride Cincinnati raises goes to the Cancer Center. The center is a collaboration between the University of Cincinnati, UC Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Ahead of last year’s event, UC Health reported that funds from Ride Cincinnati led to the launch of nearly 70 research projects. The successes of those studies resulted in an additional $17 million in follow-on grants from the National Cancer Institute and other funding sources, per UC Health.

“You’ve got to get started somewhere,” John Barrett said. “Ride Cincinnati provides the funding to get that research started so they can get the additional preliminary data needed to go after those larger grants.”

Investing in healthy people, communities

John Barrett praised several of the major corporate partners for their role helping to reach the record-setting fundraising total last year – Great American Insurance, altafiber, BSI Engineering, Synergistic, Cincinnati Reds, Sycamore Capital, AAA Club Alliance, Kroger, UC Health, RCF Group and Heartland Bank, to name a few. His organization, W&S, is a longtime sponsor as well.

The Loring Family Foundation and The Steiner Family Foundation are also large sponsors.

“Greater Cincinnati is one of the most generous communities on Earth,” he said. “We might be the 30th largest city, but we really play way above our weight in everything – and corporate philanthropy is just another one of those deals.”

While the financial support of global companies can go a long way, it’s a group of dedicated individuals who’ve made Ride Cincinnati what it is today.

Ride Cincinnati is an entirely volunteer-run event – giving their time, sweat and in-kind gifts, in addition to financial donations.

Every dollar raised through Ride Cincinnati back to cancer research.

That reality comes as no surprise to John Barrett, who said it’s the people of Cincinnati who’ve uplifted numerous causes and nonprofits over the years. He gave the successes of the annual United Way of Greater Cincinnati and ArtsWave fundraising campaigns as examples. Health care and medical research are no different, he said.

“Many of the great programs at different hospitals in Cincinnati are due to the generosity of our people,” he said.

No sign of braking in 2024

Planning for this year’s Ride Cincinnati is well underway. Details about the course and general event information are available on the event website. Registration is open. More details will become available closer to the event.

John Barrett encouraged anyone interested in cycling and/or supporting the fight against cancer to become involved.

“This year’s event promises to be better than ever,” he continued.

Ride Cincinnati