The rays of the sun hadn’t yet broken the horizon on the seasonal morning of June 14. But by 4 a.m., Allison Gordon was already on Yeatman’s Cove in downtown Cincinnati, setting up tables and making sure every last detail was crossed off her list. By 6:30 a.m., several thousand friends, families and cycling enthusiasts arrived, bikes by their sides, helmets in hand and bright colored jerseys of yellow, lime green, pink and blue. They were eager to ride the streets of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky in what would be the ninth annual Ride Cincinnati cycling event.
Gordon has never ridden in the ride. She’s been too busy coordinating it, making sure everything goes according to plan. For the participants, including Ohio Senator Rob Portman and his wife, Jane, the event was a way to get some exercise while raising important funds for breast cancer research.
Western & Southern Financial Group’s chairman, president and CEO John Barrett with his wife, Eileen.
Gordon lost her mother, Marlene Harris, to breast cancer in 2007. Gordon’s family, including her father, Dr. Harvey Harris, founded Ride Cincinnati that same year as a way to commemorate Marlene’s life as well as the lives of all others who have been affected by breast cancer.
"Ride Cincinnati will always be a tribute to her," says Gordon, chair of the event. "There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and the values she taught me."
The event was dreamed up primarily by Gordon’s father, an avid cyclist. "He wanted to make a difference, but he didn’t want to do a luncheon or something similar. He wanted something different for the community, something active."
Honorary guest Ohio Senator Rob Portman with his wife, Jane.
Gordon, a two-time breast cancer survivor herself, leveraged the connections she’d gained volunteering with other breast cancer organizations to organize the event. The result is a non-competitive, family-oriented ride through the scenic areas of Greater Cincinnati. It begins at Yeatman’s Cove and continues over the pedestrian-only Purple People Bridge, then winds through several cities in Northern Kentucky. Destination markers along the course guide participants to choose the length of their own personal ride. With several courses to choose from, cyclists eventually return to a big Ride Cincinnati celebration party at Sawyer Point.
"What’s so great about our event is that we have a ride for everyone," says Gordon. "Families can come and not be worried about traffic. It’s not a timed event, and we have food stops along the route. At the party afterward there are jumpy houses, clowns, face painting, snow cones, a DJ and tons of food booths. The after-party is free for all registered riders."
Western & Southern Financial Group has been a title sponsor from the first event. Chairman, president and CEO John Barrett and his wife, Eileen, are enthusiastic participants in Ride Cincinnati. "Eileen and John are incredibly supportive. The corporate support we’ve gotten from Western & Southern is amazing."
Last year’s Ride Cincinnati introduced corporate challenges in which Cincinnati businesses sponsor entire teams of employees to ride in the event. With 130 riders, Western & Southern’s team came in first in 2015. Also participating in the corporate challenge were event sponsors Cincinnati Bell, Macy’s and American Financial Group.
Ride Cincinnati 2015 raised more than $330,000 from 2,200 riders. That brings the total raised so far to more than $2 million. "All of the money we raised goes directly to breast cancer research at the Barrett Cancer Center at the UC Cancer Institute."
To learn more about Ride Cincinnati, visit www.ridecincinnati.org.
To learn more about Western & Southern, visit www.westernsouthern.com.