Event coordinators reflect on 17 years of Saddle Up for Roswell

Celebrating 17 Years

Oftentimes, the best fundraisers are born from the marriage of two concepts — a passion and a need. The success of Saddle Up for Roswell is the perfect example of that.

The 17th Annual Saddle Up for Roswell was held on September 17, 2022, at the Chestnut Ridge Equestrian Center. Over the years, the event has raised nearly $250,000 for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The original motivation was because Sue Williams’ husband, Terry, was diagnosed with cancer and he was getting treatment and my father worked for Roswell Park in the cancer research lab,” said event coordinator Megan Gamin. “We just thought it was a perfect partnership to raise money for Roswell, and it’s such a wonderful cause.”

Sue and Terry Williams were both avid riders and deeply involved in the world of breeding and training horses. In fact, in 1984, their horse Abdullah competed at the Los Angeles Olympics, winning a gold and silver medal in show jumping.

Carrying on Terry's Vision

This is a photo of an award case from Sue and Terry's late horse, Abdullah
This is a photo of Sue Williams, one of the Saddle Up for Roswell founders

At this year’s event, Sue reflected on how the idea for Saddle Up for Roswell came to be. “My husband was being treated for colon cancer at Roswell. And I can distinctly remember sitting at a horse show in Erie, Pennsylvania, and just brainstorming and thinking, ‘Why don’t we see what we can do?’ and ‘Let’s make the horse trials into a fundraiser!’”

In the beginning, they could’ve only dreamed of the event’s success in the 17 years that would follow.

“Our goal is always to beat the year before,” said Megan. “There are 125 riders, and they bring in thousands of dollars. It’s a devoted group.” The event also raises money through T-shirt sales, sponsors and a basket raffle.

While Terry passed away in 2007, Sue and Megan have continued to host and grow the fundraiser in his honor.

Sue added, “I will be 80 years old this year, and I hope it carries on for a long time. I don’t see an end in sight.”

Looking to Start Your Own Event?

This photo shows a woman and a young girl at Saddle Up for Roswell. The girl is sitting on the horse, preparing to compete in the event.

For anyone looking to start a fundraiser for Roswell Park, Megan said, “If they can do it, please do it.” She also offered this advice: “Be ahead of the schedule, set a timeline, have meetings and get your core people to back you up.”

Though it can be a commitment to get an event like this off the ground, both Megan and Sue believe the reward of helping those living with cancer is well worth it every time.

Riding for hope: How one woman turned loss into a lifelong mission

Shannon's story

Shannon Traphagen vividly remembers the day her husband Mike hopped on his bike and cycled 20 miles — just six weeks after having brain surgery. At his next radiation appointment, the entire staff at Roswell Park applauded his efforts and greeted him with high-fives. When Mike finished radiation and rang the bell marking his last treatment, his doctors and nurses rallied around him.

Though Mike succumbed to brain cancer after 14 months, Shannon will never forget the knowledge and compassion of the Roswell Park staff. They walked the couple through treatment options, let them know what to expect and brought in specialists when needed. To this day, Roswell Park continues to exceed Shannon’s expectations.  

“The staff and community at Roswell Park continue to rally around me as I grieve the loss of my husband. They hold me close and support me on my new journey. There is immense value and strength in that kind of support,” Shannon says.

A trail ride in Mike's honor

Shannon's bike ride luncheon
Shannon's bike ride

Last year, Shannon started the Traphagen’s Trail Ride 4 Brain Cancer in the Village of Hamburg to honor her husband’s legacy. The inaugural event offered a 5.5-mile and 10-mile bike route to riders and benefitted brain cancer research and treatment at Roswell Park. The event raised almost $11,000 in just six weeks.

Shannon relied on the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, sponsors, vendors and her staff to put the event together and hit her fundraising goal. The Alliance Foundation, through the Team Roswell program, helped her plan and create promotional materials while media coverage from WIVB Channel 4 helped her spread the word to recruit riders and encourage donations. 

Her advice to anyone looking to fundraise is this: Start early, plan in advance and be strategic.

“Create a Facebook events page, use LinkedIn and Instagram, make a personal video message letting people know why you are holding your event. These things will give you the best chance at hosting a great event!” she says.

Finding the light

Shannon's bike ride participants laughing

Shannon doesn’t plan to stop after the inaugural ride. After serving as a caregiver and experiencing such a difficult loss, she wants to help others who are walking a similar path. That involves raising funds and awareness for brain cancer to give others a better chance at beating the odds. It all comes down to inspiring hope.

“Hope is a powerful thing. Don’t ever lose it — even in your darkest days — because you never know where the light will come from and how it will shine down on you,” she says.

Learn more about how to start your own fundraising event