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

What We Can Learn from Shooting For A Cure!

Imagine This

Picture a packed gym decorated with balloons and streamers — all pink. At center court, the Pembroke girls’ basketball team dons pink jerseys with a pink basketball in one player’s hand. The crowd is silent as a player shares the story of a loved one over the loudspeaker. When she’s done, she places a pink rose into a vase alongside other pink and white flowers, representing survivors and those lost to breast cancer.

At the end of the night, it’s not about who wins the game; it’s about an entire community coming together for a cause. And it’s been that way for eleven years.

“Our mission started off as a kind gesture in support of a community member as she battled breast cancer,” says Mike Wilson, a special education teacher and event organizer. “It was a pure act, done out of love. Eleven seasons later, we never could have imagined what this game would become.”  

Shooting For A Cure! started in 2011 after coach Ron Funke discovered his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. The girls’ basketball team wanted to show their support by hosting a game in her honor as she underwent treatment. Shooting For A Cure! has since raised more than $225,000 for breast cancer research and care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.                                                              

“Our team, our school and our entire community is working toward finding a cure for cancer. We value service, and we will continue to do all we can in support of those in need,” Mike says.

The Secrets to Success: Sweat and Passion

The Secrets to Success: Sweat and Passion

When we asked Mike what it took to bring an event like Shooting For A Cure to life, his answer was simple: hard work. The planning process begins long before event day, and everyone (players, families and teachers) works together to promote the game. That includes collaborating with local media outlets, posting on social media and seeking donations from local area businesses.

Above all of that, though, Mike says that you can use passion to fuel your momentum. Lead with your heart, and people will respond.  

“If you have a passion to support those in need, let that guide your event. There are more compassionate and benevolent people in our community than you can imagine who will jump on board and support you.”

Mike also says that the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation really helps support his team through the planning process by providing tools and connections that make the event a success.

Bring It All Together

Bringing It All Together

There’s a lot to be learned from the success of Shooting For A Cure!, especially if you’re thinking about hosting your own Team Roswell event for the first time. Here are four tips you can take from Shooting For A Cure! when planning your fun.

1. Start early

Events can be time-consuming to plan, so give yourself plenty of time to get everything off the ground.

2. Make it a community affair

Planning is more fun with a team. Make sure to loop people in and ask for help from local businesses.

3. Use the resources available to you

Whether you need inspiration, guidance or planning tools, there is plenty of support available to you. Ask family, friends or the staff at the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

4. Get social

Use social media to promote your event, ask for donations and gather inspiration from other accounts. Follow Shooting For A Cure! on Twitter at @PemGBB_PinkGame to get started.

5. Lead with passion

If you have a serious passion for helping others, let that be your guide. People respond well to authenticity and are more likely to help if they know you’re excited about your event.

With these tips on your side, your event is sure to be a hit.

Questions? Reach out to Mary at Team Roswell at 716-845-4977 or teamroswell@roswellpark.org .