Cancer has affected Rick Jackson’s life in more ways than he would care to count.
His wife Glenda and fellow real estate agent Caitlin Croft currently find themselves in the throes of battling breast cancer. His friend (and owner/editor of this paper) Brenda Perks has maintained a warrior mindset as she wins her stares down with Leukemia. He lost a brother. He beat Melanoma.
His motivation for helping the afflicted stems from these personal experiences. The prevalence of cancer means it’s always at the forefront of our brains — someone we know, someone we care for, someone we want to win. Jackson will use this motivation as fuel when he cycles 500+ miles across New York State in the 6th Annual Empire State Ride July 27-Aug. 3.
The ride takes the concept of fundraising and turns it into an experience. Cyclists from around the country convene in New York City before making the journey to Niagara Falls. Covering 60-90 miles a day, the race has raised over $1.5M since 2015 for cancer research at the Roswell Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. Last year, 137 riders participated (including local management teams from Holiday Valley and HoliMont), and ESR expects over 200 this year, according to an email correspondence with planning members.
“It’s all about raising awareness,” Jackson said. “Cancer is so prevalent. The experience my wife and I have had at Roswell has been fantastic, and I’m doing this to raise money and help other people affected.”
A native of Ellicottville, Rick Jackson moved south and called sunny Florida his home for over 25 years. He found his passion for cycling while working on the police force. Going as far as starting a cycling club with his wife, the Jacksons began participating in rides — including one that spanned two days in the Florida Keys — and got others involved as well.
“For the Police Athletic League, we started a ride that in its first year had 70 or so riders,” he said. “By the third, we had over 1,500. We went out to Lake Tahoe and rode in the America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, which spanned two states. I’ve always been really into it, and since we moved back up here (in 2010) I’ve been looking for a reason to get back. The Empire State Ride is as good of a reason as any.”
Driving 500 miles is a hike, let alone cycling it. Over the past few years Jackson has lost close to 100 pounds, using this ride as the catalyst to keep the weight off. The Empire State Ride Facebook page frequently livestreams a fitness and nutrition expert that gives tips on maintaining peak performance while riding — like staggering nutrition and hydration, which keeps the internal engine running.
“It’s 60-90 miles a day — that’s a lot,” he said. “The physical aspect won’t be as difficult for me because I love riding so much. But it’s keeping that mental positivity up and staying focused. What I’m looking forward to most is the ride, and finishing it (laughs).”
At 500+ miles, this will be the longest ride Jackson has ever done. Leading up to it, he plans on hitting Chapel Hill a few times to make sure the legs are dialed in. He’ll also stop and see Ellicottville’s resident bike expert and owner of Bike and Bean, Dennis Baldwin, to ensure his equipment is tuned, sized and runs properly. The race, which starts at Wagner College in Staten Island, has stops all along New York State.
To participate in the race, riders must raise at least $3,500. Jackson and his riding partner, Priscilla Snyder, have both hit their goal with just under two months to go.
“The support we’ve received so far from the community has been exceptional,” Jackson said. “This ride will be a challenge, but I’m up for it. I’m looking forward to it.”
For more information on the Empire State Ride, head to empirestateride.com. To donate to Rick or Priscilla’s ride, stop by the Howard Hanna Real Estate Office in Ellicottville, located downtown on the main drag.