Forefront Communications

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

Wall Street Rides FAR

Sam Belden

Sam Belden

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 13, they will lay down their arms and join together for a truly worthy cause. Forefront Communications spoke to eight of these riders about their backgrounds, motivations for riding and connections to the cause. Here are their stories, in their own words.

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Friendly Rivalries Drive Major Fundraising
By Michael Blaugrund, Head of Transactions, NYSE

Wall Street Rides FAR
Michael Blaugrund

When I was asked to help raise money for the Autism Science Foundation by participating in last year’s Wall Street Rides FAR, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to see so many of my industry counterparts outside the office. If there’s one thing I learned from my first ride, it’s this: A tough client or fierce competitor seems a little less daunting when they’re wearing bike shorts.

For me, this ride symbolizes a rare, one-day truce where we put aside rivalries in the spirit of supporting a truly deserving cause. For most of the year, Bryan Harkins (EVP at Cboe and co-founder of the event) is a thorn in my side — we each spend most of our waking hours trying to succeed at the other’s expense!  But even though we work for competitors, I have tremendous respect for his character and I am happy to help support his initiative.

This year, I’ll be joined by several of my NYSE colleagues to raise money and awareness to the crucial work the ASF is doing. The fundraising process is yet another expression of the competitive spirit within our industry – and you can bet that the NYSE team will be working tirelessly to come out ahead.

Supporting charitable causes is an important part of what we do, whether that be by climbing the stairs to the Exchange’s bell podium to highlight a deserving organization, or by climbing one of the brutal hills on this course.

It’s a great cause and I’m proud to join with my colleagues in being part of it. Whether you work on Wall Street or just want to pitch in for a great cause, we’d love for you to join us this year on October 13.

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Building Community for a Cause
By Will Briganti, Managing Director, Corporate Communications, Nasdaq

Wall Street Rides FAR
Will Briganti (right)

I’m a semi-regular cyclist, mostly for triathlon training purposes. When I heard about Wall Street Rides FAR last year, it seemed like an ideal way to support the great work of the Autism Science Foundation by doing something I enjoy.

Sure enough, the ride was a blast, but that was nothing compared to the fun I had riding alongside so many friends and colleagues. Team Nasdaq featured three members of my direct team, and we enjoyed the chance to get to know each other a bit better while taking in the rolling hills and stunning scenery of the Hudson Valley. And our hope is that – after spending the last year talking it up around the office – we’ll have an even better turnout this year!

But as much as I enjoyed riding with Team Nasdaq, it was just as fun to see old friends and make new acquaintances from other exchanges. Although we spend most of our days competing fiercely, it was gratifying to see our industry come together for something truly important. The ASF works tirelessly to promote autism research while also providing direct support to those affected. I’m proud to be joined by peers from across our industry who are dedicating their time and philanthropic resources to such a worthy cause.

I’m always amazed by the unifying power of a common goal, and Wall Street Rides FAR is a great example of that. I’m so excited to get back for my second ride! There’s still time to register – maybe I’ll see you there on October 13.

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A Charitable Challenge for a Veteran Cyclist
By Ivan Brown, Head of Options, NYSE

Wall Street Rides FAR
Ivan Brown

Wall Street Rides FAR is a phenomenal event in every way: it offers a sense of community, picturesque routes and the chance to raise money for the Autism Science Foundation. Giving back to the community is important to me, and getting to ride my bike while doing so makes it even better.

My wife and I are both regular cyclists – in fact, we gave each other new road bikes as wedding gifts. When we aren’t enjoying the great outdoors, you’ll often find us sweating it out at Flywheel. We love to track our progress, and we thrive off the energy of those around us. While I tend to think of myself as the Type A in our relationship, all bets are off when my wife steps into the gym!

My first Wall Street Rides FAR experience last year was a ton of fun. I don’t know who plotted the 30-mile route, but they weren’t messing around – there were some nice hills in there! A little Sunday morning soreness is a small price to pay for the blissful Westchester scenery and the important mission of the ASF.

Of course, I can set aside time for a bike ride on any weekend – it’s the people and the cause that make this one so special. Though I’m proud to be riding with Team NYSE, everyone in attendance will be on the same side. I hope you’ll come and see for yourself what all the buzz is about on October 13th!

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Teaming Up for Autism Research
By Paul O’Donnell, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley

Wall Street Rides FAR
Paul O’Donnell with his team, Dave Jordan Racing

I’ve been cycling competitively for six years, so it didn’t take much convincing to get me to sign up for my first Wall Street Rides FAR back in 2015. But as much as I love the open road, it’s the community atmosphere and the vital work of the Autism Science Foundation that keep me coming back.

Each year, I sign up for the ride along with members of my competitive team, Dave Jordan Racing. We are an eclectic group – young and old, men and women, beginners and old hands – but the common thread is we enjoy cycling as much as camaraderie. It’s always a joy to ride alongside them, and adding Wall Street friends and colleagues to the mix makes it all the better.

It doesn’t hurt that the event features a fun and beautiful route relatively close to home. What’s more, I have had a longstanding professional friendship with Bryan Harkins, Executive Vice President at Cboe and co-founder of Wall Street Rides FAR, and I share his view that it is important for Wall Street to give back to society in both time and action.

Riding 62 miles might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect Saturday, but you don’t need to be an avid cyclist to enjoy Wall Street Rides FAR – there are 4-, 20- and 30-mile rides too. Hope to see you there on October 13!

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An All-Inclusive Experience
By Rob Salman, Head of Business Development, CoinList Markets

Wall Street Rides FAR
Rob Salman

I’m a competitive person by nature, so when I was asked to participate in last year’s Wall Street Rides FAR cycling event, I couldn’t say no. The Autism Science Foundation does admirable work, and helping our industry do more in terms of philanthropy is always a goal of mine.

I also knew there was an incredible community surrounding this event – not just colleagues and competitors, but their families, too. That community includes Bryan Harkins, co-founder of Wall Street Rides FAR, a friend, mentor and past rival of mine in the exchange space. His dedication to funding autism research is inspiring, and if I can help him out for a great cause, then I’m happy to participate.

It was my first charity bike ride, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but I do enjoy a challenge and found the scenic 20-mile route was the perfect length for me. The volunteers went to incredible lengths to make each rider feel comfortable, and the entire event was impeccably organized – from the bike rentals, to the rest stops, to the finishing line festival.

If you are considering registering for the ride, believe me, you won’t regret it. Please join me on October 13th and get pedaling for a terrific cause!

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From Finance to Family, All are Welcome
By Lisa Shemie, Chief Legal Officer, Cboe

Wall Street Rides FAR
Wall Street Rides FAR co-founder Bryan Harkins and Lisa Shemie

I admit it: when I signed up for my first Wall Street Rides FAR last fall, I was nervous. I knew the Autism Science Foundation was a wonderful charity, but I hadn’t cycled in many years and was concerned that I wasn’t up to it, that I’d embarrass myself and that I wouldn’t have enough time to train.

Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded. I did the 20-mile ride, and even though I hadn’t trained seriously, the effort was exhilarating. While I wouldn’t say it was easy, the ride was so much fun and so well organized that I can say with confidence that anyone who is even mildly fit can do it. This is truly an event for everyone!

The only minor disappointment was that I didn’t have my family with me, so I knew I had to get them in on the fun this time around. This year I’m hoping to do the 30-mile ride, but I plan on pushing my husband to do the 4-mile loop with our son – hopefully twice!

Like so many of my friends and colleagues, working in finance leaves me with little free time, and there is certainly no shortage of events competing for our time and commitment. The inclusive and family-friendly atmosphere at Wall Street Rides FAR makes it easy and enjoyable to turn out for a great cause, so don’t be shy about registering! Hope to see you on October 13!

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Cboe Comes Together for a Cause
By Ed Tilly, CEO, Cboe

Cboe Global Markets is a proud supporter of Wall Street Rides FAR, an organization that promotes autism research through an annual series of charity bike rides outside of New York City. While Cboe has been an annual contributor to and supporter of the ride, I’m excited to ride alongside my fellow Cboe associates and industry colleagues for the first time this year for the 30-mile ride on October 13.

100 percent of every rider’s fundraising efforts go to the Autism Science Foundation, which provides funding directly to researchers working to discover the causes of autism and develop better treatments. Cboe is this year’s Diamond Sponsor for Wall Street Rides FAR. We have also supported the Autism Speaks Walk in Chicago and Chip in for Autism in recent years.

I’m proud of Cboe’s commitment to actively support the volunteer efforts of those organizations that strive to make our communities better places to live. I hope you’ll join me and my colleagues as we donate our efforts to a truly worthy cause in Wall Street Rides FAR.

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Striking a Balance for the Autism Community
By Bradley Vopni, Crypto, Hudson River Trading

Wall Street Rides FAR
Bradley Vopni (right)

I’ve had the pleasure – and the sore legs – of participating in every Wall Street Rides FAR sinceit began in 2015. With the scenic ride through beautiful Westchester and the opportunity to raise money for the Autism Science Foundation, it’s the event I look forward to the most every year.

There are many outstanding autism charities, but the ASF is unique: it strikes the appropriate balance of research and advocacy. They take a scientific approach to explore the genetic and environmental factors that cause autism and spend equal energy and resources being mindful, considerate advocates for those impacted, ultimately improving the lives of autistic individuals and their families in all kinds of ways.

The cause is incredibly near and dear to me, so when Bryan and Melissa Harkins started this event from the ground up, I knew I had to be a part of it. It doesn’t hurt that Bryan is a former colleague who has an uncanny ability to get you to do things like ride a bike when you haven ridden one in over 10 years!

From the amazing fall weather to the post-ride massage, this really is a great event, for a great cause, with great people. I hope you’ll join us on October 13!

To register for this year’s Wall Street Rides FAR, go to