Forefront Communications

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


Victoria Sanseverino

Victoria Sanseverino

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 October 3, 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.

Sam Belden, Forefront Communications


We may be in the dog days of summer, but cooler days and fall foliage are just around the corner. That can only mean one thing: it’s almost time for Wall Street Rides FAR! At Forefront Communications, this is always a highlight on our calendar – it’s a chance to get outdoors, see friendly faces and support a cause that is important to us: autism research.

Last year, we had the pleasure of speaking with over a dozen individuals from the Wall Street and autism communities to get a sense of who they are and why they support Wall Street Rides FAR. From there, we helped them write and share contributions to the Rider of the Week series, designed to generate buzz around the Ride and show why so many keep coming back year after year.

We’re proud to unveil the 2020 Rider of the Week series, and this year, I’m honored to be the first rider featured. I’ll be sharing a bit more info on the Ride as well as the reasons it is so meaningful to me on a personal level.

First, some basics: Wall Street Rides FAR benefits the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research. ASF has been a prolific supporter of autism research over the years; the projects they fund have dramatically improved our understanding of the causes of autism and have helped to develop new treatments for people with autism of all ages. More recently, they have recalibrated their activities due to the pandemic—they just announced their first round of COVID-19 Pivot Grant recipients and have compiled extensive resources for affected families.

This year’s Ride will be held on October 3 at Saxon Woods Park in White Plains, New York. While the park serves as a gathering place, the real fun is on the streets—you can take your pick of multiple routes through scenic Westchester and Fairfield Counties. There are routes for all skill levels—20, 30 and 62 miles—as well as a 4-mile family ride and a 5K run/walk, so no matter who you are, there’s a way to get involved. In just a few short years, the Ride has raised over $1 million total for ASF, and there’s still so much room to grow.

In years past, the Ride has been highlighted by a finish line festival, complete with a buffet, live band and plenty of laughs. While the post-ride celebration might look different this year, that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of the riders, as you’ll read in the weeks ahead.

There are so many reasons to get involved in this event, but for me, there is a personal connection: my sister is on the autism spectrum. Growing up, I got to see how the right interventions and supports were making a difference in her life, helping her to become more independent and express herself more easily. I ride for her and all who will come after her, especially those may not be able to access the interventions they need due to the pandemic or other circumstances.

Talk to your colleagues and read other Rider of the Week profiles, and you’ll find that my story is by no means unique — autism affects the lives of so many. This means that funding good research is critical, but it also gives Wall Street Rides FAR a community atmosphere that is like no other. When we first came aboard, one of the first things we noticed was the Ride’s ability to bridge the day-to-day rivalries that are so prevalent in the capital markets. Even in a socially distanced setting, we know that this year will be no exception.

So don’t be shy—dust off your helmet, start your training program and register for Wall Street Rides FAR! If you’re still not sold, my fellow Riders of the Week will try to convince you in the weeks to come. See you this fall!

Jim Hyde, NYSE


I’m excited to say that this year, I’ll be participating in Wall Street Rides FAR for the first time. For the past few years, I’ve watched my colleagues on Team NYSE support this event and have a great time doing it, so it will be a thrill to get involved myself.

I admit I’m not a regular cyclist, but I’m always willing to dust off the bike for the sake of a good cause – besides, this is a “no excuses” event. The organizers have a variety of routes mapped out to accommodate all skill levels, so whether you’re a world-class triathlete or just want to enjoy an easy ride with the family, there’s something for you. I’ve kicked off my training program and hope to do the 30-miler.

It’s no secret that this year’s Ride may look different than in years past – it’s just the reality of living through a pandemic. But while the finish line festival might not have as many bells and whistles, I know my colleagues and I are grateful to be able to gather in any capacity and proud to raise money for autism research and the Autism Science Foundation, which is in need of support now more than ever.

Another big reason for my involvement with the Ride is Bryan Harkins, Executive Vice President at Cboe and co-founder of the Ride. Yes, NYSE is a competitor of Cboe, but when Bryan calls on us for charity support, we respond with action. This industry always rises to meet the challenge and I am proud to be a part of it.

If there’s one good thing to come out of all this, it’s that people will be more mindful of what they have and more willing to share that good fortune with others by giving back to the community. I can’t wait to see these ideas in action at Wall Street Rides FAR. See you on October 3!

Eliza Raphael, Schonfeld


After a great experience last year, I’m excited to return to Wall Street Rides FAR for the second of hopefully many times. It’s nice to see so many people in the industry come together with their families to raise money for a great cause, so I’m grateful to have this opportunity again.

My plan is to do the 4-mile family ride with my husband, 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. This year, we have a new trailer bike for my 5-year-old (if she isn’t off her training wheels by then!) so we should be able to complete the route as a family. It’s great that the ride is inclusive of all ages, as I want my kids to participate each year and experience this great cause.

I applaud the efforts that Bryan and Melissa Harkins have made in making the Ride so special. Having been in this industry for over 20 years, I appreciate how it brings a lot of different people together for a common goal.

While many firms on Wall Street give back through their various philanthropy channels, this event is unique because of the collaboration across firms. Riders from all corners of the financial services industry—from exchanges to market makers to hedge funds and more—come together to support something bigger than themselves.

Working from home these last few months has allowed me to spend more time with my family and log more miles on the bike. By the time October rolls around, I know we’ll be more than ready. Join me and Team Raphael on October 3 in Saxon Woods Park—we hope to see you there!

Michael Lewis and Linda Singer, Autism Science Foundation


This year will be our fourth Wall Street Rides FAR, but our first as Virtual Riders. The event is always a highlight of our fall, so we’re excited to be participating in any capacity, even if we can’t be there physically.

For us, that means a 30-mile trek on our tandem bicycle. On the morning of the big event, we’ll await word that the riders in White Plains have left the starting line and cycle to Rock Creek Park, a large area in the northwest portion of Washington DC that extends into Maryland. It’s a small gesture, but we want to show our support for the Autism Science Foundation and autism research, even amid daunting circumstances.

Our plan is just one example of what the Wall Street Rides FAR Virtual Ride can look like. Across the country, individuals and families with a connection to this event will snap on their helmets and head out on their own courses – from city streets to scenic mountainsides to stationary bikes. Of course it would be nice for everyone to be together, but one silver lining is that the Ride is now effectively open to people from every locale. If you have a bike and a desire to help those affected by autism, this event is for you, no matter where you are.

We want to be clear that this is not a decision we wanted to make, nor is it one we take lightly. We would love to be there in person, but the pandemic means we all must take appropriate precautions. The Virtual Ride means that those who have made the same choice can still give back. It also adds a unique angle for this year’s Ride – we can’t wait to find out how many different cities and states are represented.

So whether you’re at Saxon Woods Park or somewhere else entirely, we hope you’ll join us in cycling for good on October 3. We may not see you out on the course, but rest assured our support of this cause is stronger than ever.

Zach McClanahan, DASH Financial Technologies


This year will be my first Wall Street Rides FAR and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m no competitive cyclist, but I’ve kicked off my training program and hope to do the 62-miler if all goes as planned.

While I’ll be a first-time rider, DASH Financial Technologies is a second-year participant in this event. I will be proud to ride with my team in support of autism research while representing our industry. Wall Street’s philanthropic efforts have made a difference in the lives of so many, and this commitment to serving the community has been more needed than ever amid the pandemic. This is one more way we can give back.

I’m also riding for a more personal reason: my brother has autism, and we didn’t really understand his needs growing up. I had a lot of trouble communicating with him and it’s caused us to not be very close. I’d really like to use this opportunity to learn more about autism myself and to help the next generation understand their siblings better.

I know Wall Street Rides FAR can serve as a great avenue for this – not just because of the vital research the Autism Science Foundation funds, but also because the Ride is a true community event, with families from the Wall Street and autism communities coming together in the spirit of philanthropy. With social distancing, this year’s event may look a bit different, but I don’t think that’s going to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm.

I’m more than ready to get involved. Hope to see you on October 3!

Marjorie Madfis, Yes She Can

Yes She Can

My daughter Izzie and I are thrilled to be returning to Wall Street Rides FAR for the third time. We’ve been attending autism events in and around Westchester for years, and this one does a great job of bringing the community together while carrying out its mission to support the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) and autism research.

My family enjoys riding bikes together – we even have a couple of secret spots we like to frequent on Cape Cod and in Westchester. For the Ride, we’re looking at doing the 12-mile family route, but we’re grateful to have so many options at our disposal in case that plan changes.

But as much as we love to ride, our main focus with this event is supporting ASF. I have known ASF’s co-founder and president, Alison Singer, for more than 20 years – she is a fellow autism mom and our daughters attended pre-school together. Over the years, we have watched her organization provide support to countless autism families, from ones that look like ours to others whose needs may be completely different, and we feel strongly about supporting the mission and getting involved however we can.

The circumstances of the moment make this year’s Ride even more important. As the founder of Yes She Can, an organization that helps young women with autism develop skills for employment and greater independence, I see firsthand the impact that the pandemic has had on our autism community. For example, our training program had to move to an online platform, and the lack of direct, in-person interaction among our trainees and coaches has been very difficult. I have seen our program participants express anxiety over the disruption to their routines and in some cases regress in the skills they had been developing. ASF has been working tirelessly to support individuals facing situations like these and we are proud to play some role in helping them continue this work.

We hope you’ll join us. See you on October 3!

Chris Marino, Aquablue


I have participated in Wall Street Rides FAR in each of the past four years. I could go on and on about what keeps me coming back, but the explanation really boils down to three key reasons: the challenge, the people and, of course, the cause.

In past years, I’ve done the 62-mile course – I’m an avid cyclist who regularly logs 50 to 100 miles a week, and I enjoy challenging myself. Since we won’t be able to gather in person this year, I’m in the process of mapping out a similar route near my home. Of course, it’s not a competition. The Ride strives for an inclusive atmosphere, and everyone is welcome to participate in the way that best suits them.

It’s always inspiring to see the Wall Street community come together for this cause. It’s no secret that our industry has the resources to make a huge difference in our communities, and I commend event co-founder Bryan Harkins and all sponsoring firms for their efforts on the event. In addition, I am excited to get my colleagues on Team Aquablue involved – we have a great rapport and this is another project we are thrilled to get to work together on.

Of course, none of this would be happening if not for the continued need to support autism research. I am very close to five different families who are affected by autism, and in speaking with them over the years, I have learned how they have benefitted from the right interventions. The Autism Science Foundation is a longtime leader in funding the breakthroughs that lead to these supports, so I am more than happy to lend my time and effort.

Hopefully after reading this, you feel the same way. The pandemic may mean this year’s Ride will look a bit different, but the challenge, the people and the cause are as worthy as ever. Mark your calendars for October 3!

Kapil Rathi, CrossTower


I am thrilled to be participating in Wall Street Rides FAR again this year. The event continues to be one of the highlights of the fall and I always relish the chance to break out my bike and throw myself back into training.

While I have supported Wall Street Rides FAR for many years (I was at the first one), this is still a year of first for me. For starters, I will be riding with my new CrossTower team members; we are a new exchange that launched nearly one year ago. In addition, the event is virtual. While the experience of the ride will be different because it’s virtual, the spirt of the ride will be the same. We will be riding with just as much enthusiasm. I am so proud to be riding with my CrossTower team. We are passionate at work building the digital asset exchange and we are thrilled to bring our passion to an incredibly meaningful cause.

When it comes to linking the world of Wall Street with great causes, Ride co-founder Bryan Harkins has set an impressive example. Bryan and I worked together for a number of years at Cboe and Bats, and I have gotten a firsthand view of his dedication to improving the lives of those affected by autism and providing a great experience for all riders. Between the importance of the cause, the generosity of our industry and the respect that all of us have for Bryan, it’s not a surprise that the event has managed to raise so much money in so little time.

I’m proud to have played some small role in this. Please consider joining my colleagues and I as we ride virtually on October 3—it’s a decision you won’t regret.

Obi Nwaigwe, IEX Trading


I’m looking forward to joining forces with the wider Wall Street community to support autism research and Wall Street Rides FAR on October 3. This will be my first year as a rider. However, I’ve participated in various other charity rides over the past four years, so I’m ready to rumble. These rides are extraordinary events that push you mentally and physically, all for a great cause.

The unique circumstances of this year mean that my first Wall Street Rides FAR will be as a virtual rider. Team IEX is disappointed to not be able to gather with our industry colleagues, but it hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm for this great event. Over the past few years, IEX has been a participant and fundraiser for this event, so I look forward to carrying the torch as the new team lead! I’m no Lance Armstrong, but I would consider myself solid rider, and I plan on doing the 62-mile route.

While this year has been full of unforeseen circumstances, the past couple of months have allowed me to try new hobbies as well as revisit old ones. I am now a failed gardener, but I gave it a good effort (I blame the soil). Instead I’ve had the chance to prioritizing riding again, which has been great. I try and pick two days a week to ride, totaling about 25-30 miles a week.

An event like this demonstrates the power of philanthropy. Wall Street Rides FAR offers the perfect opportunity for all of us in the industry to give something back to the autism community and make a difference in peoples’ lives. No matter how competitive we are, the Wall Street community always comes together for great causes, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

Cass Sanford, OTC Markets Group
OTC Markets Group

I am very excited to participate in my first Wall Street Rides FAR. There are few activities as COVID-friendly as biking—I can’t wait to get outside and represent Team OTC Markets as we make our presence felt at this year’s virtual Ride.

I am by no means a hardcore cyclist, but I will choose a bike over a car or train ride. These days, my biking mostly involves riding a Citi Bike around New York—those things must weigh 50 pounds, so I’m hoping this will serve as my training for the ride.

I’ve also had a chance to spend more time with my family in Maine over the past six months, where I was able to ride the beautiful Eastern Trail.

2020 has been a difficult year for so many, and Team OTC Markets is committed to giving back during this time.

While the past six months have been tumultuous, the financial services industry has largely weathered the storm. As a result, we can and should be more committed than ever to supporting social, health, environmental and other causes. The autism community has certainly been affected by the pandemic, with widespread school closures and disruptions in access to important services, so the opportunity to support the Autism Science Foundation gives us all the more reason to get involved.

I hope you’ll join us. This is perhaps the most unique Wall Street Rides FAR yet, but it also promises to be one of the most memorable. Happy (virtual) riding!

Jos Schmitt, NEO Exchange


This is my first time participating in Wall Street Rides FAR, and on behalf of myself and the rest of Team NEO, we are excited to bring a Canadian presence to the ride. I have loved cycling since I was a kid, and continue to ride regularly with my wife, Tanya. Team NEO has opted for the shorter 20-mile ride — it is our first year participating, and we wanted to make sure that we can all be back at work the following Monday without any issues! (Just kidding).

Several factors influenced my decision to sign up. It’s important to acknowledge that autism spectrum disorders affect many people, and this ride supports the research that aims to find a cure. I have close friends who are the parents of an autistic child, so I want to do this in support of them. Additionally, many charities and foundations have suffered major losses in contributions during this pandemic, and so it is important that those of us who have been less impacted stand up to support these organizations in need.

And finally, there is my friend Bryan Harkins, who invited me to sponsor and participate in the ride. Despite our companies being competitors, signing up is my way of acknowledging that there are causes far bigger than our daily business lives and we should be able to come together for the greater good, regardless of our situation.

I have been impressed by the resiliency of Team NEO during this time of remote work and want to thank them for the commitment they have shown. I know they will be able to virtually ride as well as they have been able to virtually work! NEO is an organization with a unique set of business and personal values and a laser-like focus on doing what is right. Having a group of team members sign up for the ride and raise funds for autism research is indicative of who we are as an organization, and I am very proud to ride alongside them.

Wall Street in the US and Bay Street in Canada have been privileged during these tough times, and I think it is a duty for us, now more than ever, to give back and help those in need. This ride shows that we can come together—quite literally across borders—and do great things, even when those borders are almost closed because of the pandemic. I am very proud to join Wall Street Rides FAR and I am impressed that the organizing team is able make this happen, especially during these challenging times. They are an example for many in the US, Canada, and globally.


This year’s ride will take place on October 3, 2020. We hope to see you there!