Forefront Communications

Why I Ride FAR: Wall Street Executives Share Their Motivations for Supporting Autism Research

Alexandra Hamer

Alexandra Hamer

Wall Street Rides FAR is an annual series of charity bike rides benefiting the Autism Science Foundation. Launched in 2015 by Bryan and Melissa Harkins, both Wall Street veterans, the event sends professionals from across the financial services industry on a variety of scenic routes through Westchester County, ranging from 20 miles all the way up to 62 miles.

The riders who donate their money and time to the ride are often fierce rivals in their day-to-day lives, but on Saturday, October 5, they will lay down their arms and join together for a truly worthy cause. Forefront Communications spoke to seven of these riders about their backgrounds, motivations for riding and connections to the cause. Here are their stories, in their own words.

 

Melissa Harkins, Co-Founder

It’s hard to believe that Wall Street Rides FAR is already in its fifth year. When my husband Bryan and I founded the Ride in 2015, we knew we could count on our friends and colleagues for support, but the generosity displayed since then has been beyond anything we could have imagined.

Bryan and I had been looking to combine our love of cycling and fitness with an important cause, and when we got in touch with the Autism Science Foundation, it quickly became clear that they were an ideal partner. The ASF focuses exclusively on funding scientific research and has had a hand in many important initiatives to find possible causes, better treatments and ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected by autism.

The response has been tremendous. So many in the financial services industry are affected by autism in some way, and many of those who are not have still been incredibly giving. Each year, there is an influx of new riders and new teams. In addition, we’ve met so many incredible families from the autism community, who remind us of our mission and inspire us to push through those last few miles. Bringing together the Wall Street and autism communities is one of the best parts of the Ride, and everyone comes together to make it a great day.

Whether you’re a longtime rider or new to the cycling game, we hope to see you at Saxon Woods Park on October 5! We like to call this a “no excuses” event – that is, there are so many different ways to get involved. There are multiple courses designed for a wide range of cycling abilities, and for those who don’t want to ride, there is a great trail walk.

With your continued support, we can make this the biggest fundraising year yet. We raised over $350,000 last year, taking us past the $1 million mark in total funds raised, but I know we can push even higher as we celebrate our fifth year.

So no matter who you are, what you do or how often you cycle, there’s a place for you at Wall Street Rides FAR. You won’t regret it, and so many people will benefit from your ride. See you on Saturday!

Guillaume Bouvet, Tower Research

After a truly memorable experience at last year’s Wall Street Rides FAR, I’m very excited to return for my second ride. I had heard about the event before, and after completing a terrific ride alongside my colleagues and witnessing the camaraderie that surrounds this event firsthand, I know I’ll be returning for years to come.

I really love to cycle. I ride my bike to work almost every day and do longer rides on the weekends with my friends. I also ride to feed my competitive streak—I participate in various bike races and triathlons, and last year I rode a stage of the Tour de France in the Alps, which happened to be in my hometown. Needless to say, I’d choose raising money while riding my bike over sitting at a charity auction every time.

But while racing is a passion of mine, it’s important to remember that Wall Street Rides FAR is a RIDE, not a race! No matter your speed or skill level, you’re encouraged to join this community and help raise money for the Autism Science Foundation—there are multiple courses with varying lengths so that all can participate. Our industry is competitive enough, especially when it comes to speed, and it’s nice to pause for a (micro)second and give back!

The cause is truly outstanding. While I haven’t been personally affected by autism, my sister did some research on the subject while getting her PhD, and I was moved by her stories of working with affected families. Furthermore, so many people in our industry and the wider world are personally affected, and this is Tower Research’s way of showing support.

We hope you’ll join us on October 5. Look for me on the 62-mile course!

Jeff Mendl, OTC Markets Group

Along with my colleagues and teammates at OTC Markets Group, I’m pleased to say I’ll be participating in my first Wall Street Rides FAR. Friends from all corners of the industry are buzzing about this year’s event, and I figured it’s time to step up and experience it for myself.

Although I like to keep active, I admit I’m new to road riding and that this will be my first organized ride. Nevertheless, I plan on taking on the 62-mile route – we have some avid cyclists on our team, and you’re crazy if you think I’m going to let them go farther than me!

That said, the Ride offers a wide variety of routes to accommodate all skill and fitness levels. Many riders bring their families, including young children – the community that surrounds this event is fantastic.

Of course, all this excitement supports a larger goal: funding autism research. I have several friends who have children with autism, and their dedication to spreading awareness and raising money is nothing short of tremendous. To me, supporting their cause by signing up for the ride was a no-brainer. The financial services industry is lucky to include a wide network of giving individuals, and this is one way we can give back to the community.

Whether you’re a regular cyclist or a new rider like myself, we’d love for you to join us on October 5. Be sure to wish me luck on those 62 miles!

Ana Kolevzon, Team Kolevzon

My family and I are thrilled to be returning for our fifth Wall Street Rides FAR. We love riding bikes together, but the thing that keeps Team Kolevzon coming back is the great cause—for us, supporting autism research is a family affair.

My passion for autism research comes from my cousin, who has autism. Watching my cousin struggle with everyday activities and transitioning to adulthood made me want to raise money for this cause, so that future generations of people with autism will have an easier road. Also, my dad—he and my sister round out our three-person team—is an autism researcher, so our family has a firsthand perspective on the huge impact good research can have and the importance of funding these efforts.

Every year, we work hard to spread this message to our friends and neighbors, and they always respond with incredible generosity. For the past four years, I’ve been the top youth fundraiser, and as long as people are benefitting from autism research, I plan on working as hard as I can to defend that title.

I hope that we will continue to see more and more kids getting involved with this amazing event. The cause is truly important, and if you think you’re too young to make a difference, you’re wrong. It’s also a great outdoor activity to do with friends and family and above all a really meaningful way to spend your time.

Team Kolevzon will be out in full force on October 5, and so will dozens of others from the Wall Street, autism and local communities. We hope you’ll join us—your support means so much to so many.

Paul Morris, Paulie’s Promise

Hi there—my name is Paul Morris, and I’ve been a proud participant in Wall Street Rides FAR for the past three years. This year, I’ll be participating as co-chair of the 5K trail walk.

Let me tell you a bit about myself: I was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and was nonverbal until age 5. Today, I live alone, work three jobs and am a self-advocate. Together with my family—my mom, dad and three siblings—I founded our team, Paulie’s Promise, 17 years ago. Since then, we’ve participated in countless walks and other events to support autism research.

We are always happy to return to Wall Street Rides FAR—they provide a ton of support to the Autism Science Foundation, and we have lots of fun along the way. Saxon Woods Park is a beautiful location for a trail walk. Last year we were hit with some bad weather, but with a great trail beneath my feet and my family by my side, the rain couldn’t do anything to dampen our spirits.

Ultimately, it’s all about raising money to find a cure and helping future generations of individuals with autism. I’m fortunate to have a rich, fulfilling life with a wide support network, but not everyone is so lucky. The Autism Science Foundation does so much to enable early intervention and improve outcomes for these individuals. My family, along with countless others, is grateful to Wall Street Rides FAR and the wider Wall Street community for the generous support.

We hope you’ll join us and help make 2019 the biggest fundraising year yet. See you on the trail!

Drew Krichman, Jane Street

On October 5, my colleagues on Team Jane Street and I will hit the streets of Westchester for our second Wall Street Rides FAR.

From the opening bell to the finish line festival, I was blown away by the enthusiasm and commitment demonstrated by my fellow riders, families, volunteers and everyone else. It was plain to see why so many look forward to the event all year long, and now I can count myself among that group.

When you’re raising money for a charity as important as the Autism Science Foundation, there are plenty of reasons to smile. Meeting families affected by autism and hearing firsthand accounts of how research has led to breakthroughs and impacted lives for the better had a real effect on me—it’s a cause I truly believe in. All in all, it was an inspirational experience riding with so many people and seeing supporters along the way!

Eric Chern, Chicago Trading Company

Wall Street Rides FAR is nearly here, and I’m thrilled to say I’ll be there alongside my colleagues from Chicago Trading for my second ride. Right now, I’m signed up for the 30-mile ride, but if the weather cooperates and my team continues to apply peer pressure, the 62-miler is definitely in play!

When we first heard about this event, I knew it was something our firm could get behind. Many of us lead active lifestyles, representing all levels of cycling ability. The ride presents a fun challenge I can work towards over the summer, and it takes place in a beautiful area that I would otherwise probably not have a chance to visit. Finally, autism research is a cause that CTC consistently supports, so we’re always pleased to find a new opportunity.

For me, the cause is personal: my son, Dylan, has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

He is impacted more mildly than most others on the autism spectrum, but he’s still had to deal with a number of challenges. Through a lot of hard work and therapy, Dylan is leading a successful and independent life and is entering his first year of college this Fall.

So for me, participating in the Ride is a way to raise awareness about autism, to help raise funds for autism research and to honor Dylan, who is truly one of the most amazing, wonderful, intelligent, loving and inspiring people I have ever met. He just happens to be my son!

We at CTC lead fortunate lives and are firm in our commitment to giving back and improving the community around us. In addition, I’ll be riding for Dylan and all who are touched by similar challenges. Hope to see you there on October 5!

Jennifer Fagenson, Dash Financial Technologies

Dash Financial Technologies will be making its Wall Street Rides FAR debut this fall, and as team leader, I couldn’t be more excited. I usually prefer running to cycling, but I’m always happy to break out my bike—especially when it’s to support a great organization like the Autism Science Foundation.

One of the best parts of this event is the location and atmosphere—this isn’t your typical cocktail party fundraiser. Instead, it offers some of the things we don’t experience enough of at work: fresh air, physical activity and family fun. It also reminds us that we are able to experience certain joys that may be inaccessible to others due to physical or mental constraints.

To me, philanthropy means more than just a charitable donation—it is an involved effort based on a desire to improve human welfare. Wall Street Rides FAR calls on people to go that extra mile, with some getting on a bike for the first time in years and others traveling from across the country, and the enthusiasm with which the riders meet these challenges showcases all the best sides of our industry.

We at Dash are incredibly proud to stand with this community. We hope you’ll join us on October 5.

Michael Lewis & Linda Singer, Team Singer

We are thrilled to return to Westchester for our third Wall Street Rides FAR. We ride a tandem, so we know a thing or two about the power of teamwork, and those who support the ride truly exemplify this quality.

So many of us have a personal connection to autism, including many on Wall Street, but even those who do not display remarkable dedication to raising money for the Autism Science Foundation. Between Wall Street’s participation and the support from the autism community, this event has continued to grow year after year, funding numerous important research initiatives along the way.

For us, the cause is indeed personal: we have a granddaughter with autism, now 22. We believe strongly that good autism research will improve not only her life, but the lives of thousands of individuals with autism who will come after her.

At the ride, there will be individuals of all ages with autism, from small children to grown adults. Each can hope for a better future in part because of the money raised by Wall Street Rides FAR. Given that, you can see why the day takes on such a festive atmosphere, complete with live music from the Lava Trading Band and crowd-pleasing chants from the Harrison High School cheerleaders.

We sincerely hope you’ll join in the fun on October 5. Look for us on our tandem!

Paul Famighetti, Cumberland

I’m pleased to say I’ll be heading north for my third go-round at Wall Street Rides FAR this fall. When it comes to scenic bike routes, I don’t usually need much convincing, and if I’m able to log some miles while raising money for an outstanding organization like the Autism Science Foundation, that’s all the better.

To top it off, the ride provides an environment where colleagues and rivals alike can meet and reconnect in a friendly environment. It’s no secret that our industry requires long hours, but in terms of time spent getting to know one another as people and enjoying the great outdoors, there just aren’t enough opportunities.

We’re also grateful for the opportunity to come together and raise money for a worthy cause. There are a lot of benefits to working in financial services, but they come with a responsibility to give back. Those at the ride exude this generous attitude, and true to this industry’s competitive nature, the donations continue to grow each year.

My exact plan for this year’s ride is TBD. While I’d love to do the 62-miler, the fact that I fly home to Austin that same day may put me on the 30-mile course.

Then again, maybe my hectic itinerary is just the motivation I need to train harder than ever and fly through those 62 miles—stay tuned!

Jamil Nazarali, Citadel Securities

While I’ve been happy to support Wall Street Rides FAR for the past few years, this will be my first time as a rider. I knew there was no avoiding it – after all, this has become one of the biggest non-conference events in the industry, and I’m always happy to do more for an outstanding cause.

I wouldn’t say I’m a regular cyclist, but I do hop on my bike from time to time as a cross training exercise. I’m signed up to do the 30-mile ride, but to my fellow first-time participants, know that there are routes suited to all ages and skill levels, from a four-mile family ride all the way up to a 62-mile trek.

As incredible as the ride looks, that’s not the reason people are traveling from near and far for this event. Let’s face it: people on Wall Street get paid very well relative to most other industries. We are very fortunate, and it is nice to share that good fortune with others. As for the cause itself, I think almost all of us have a friend or family member impacted by autism, and more research is badly needed.

For these reasons and many more, I’ll be proud to stand at the starting line for my first ride through Saxon Woods Park. Join me on October 5!

Steve Crutchfield, Chicago Trading

I couldn’t be more excited to return for my second Wall Street Rides FAR. I’m a regular cyclist who loves riding around Chicago, but every so often, it’s nice to trade the streets of the Windy City for the hills of Westchester.

Like I said, I’m no stranger to life on two wheels – in fact, I’ve been carless since my days living in Manhattan, so my bike is my best friend as far as saving time on my commute. When Bryan Harkins asked if I’d be willing to ride in support of autism research, I immediately said yes.

It wasn’t surprising to see several of my CTC colleagues give the same response. The cause is one that means a lot to us, both as individuals and as a firm, and I know my coworkers to be generous people.

As much as I admire their dedication at the office, their commitment to this cause is even more inspiring. We sent a total of nine riders to last year’s event, eight of whom flew in the day before and were ready to go the next morning.

I found the 30-mile course to be a fun challenge with some terrific views. Back at the starting line, the camaraderie was terrific, with so many from our industry coming together to lend a hand and make it a truly special day for all. There’s no secret as to why this event continues to grow every year.

I’m already training for this year’s ride, and hopefully, I’ll have an even bigger team by my side this time! Hope to see you there.

Brian Cashin, Instanet

The first time I was invited to sign up for Wall Street Rides FAR, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I’m not a regular cyclist—in fact, it had been years since the last time I had broken my bike out of the garage. Ultimately, it was the outstanding cause and my friendship with co-founders Bryan and Melissa Harkins that convinced me to do the ride.

I’m so glad I did. My lack of experience had me a bit intimidated, but I knew within five minutes of arriving at the ride site that I was in for a fun, laid-back day. Between familiar faces, live music and family members of all ages enjoying themselves, it was a much-needed atmosphere after a long week at the trading desk. As for the ride itself, the 20-mile course was forgiving, but still long enough to feel like a real workout—an ideal balance for a more casual rider like myself.

Needless to say, I’ve signed up for my second ride, but this year, I plan on kicking things up a notch—or rather, four notches. My wife and three daughters will join me for this year’s family ride, a four-mile trek through beautiful Westchester for riders of all ages. It’s fantastic that the ride has chosen to be as inclusive as possible, and I wanted to get my family involved in that same spirit.

Come October 5, you may not see me in a corporate jersey, but Team Cashin will be out in full force. We hope to see you there!

This year’s ride will take place on October 5, 2019. We hope to see you there!

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