Riding for Dollars (Or, How To Make Fundraising Fun)

Team Sanford-Burnham rider Ryon Graf has been cycling for years. He joined Pedal the Cause in 2013 because of his personal connection to cancer. But even for him, fundraising didn’t come easy. “I admit I’ve always felt a little awkward asking people for donations, so for this year I thought about doing some sort of fundraiser.”

Ryon Graf Epic Sciences

Instead of the traditional ask, Ryon came up with a pledge-based event. “I was inspired to do something to honor the stamina of cancer patients and the uphill battle they face, so I decided to do an uphill ‘battle’ and see how many times I could go up Torrey Pines Grade in 5 hours.”

That’s right – Ryon pledged to cycle up and downTorrey Pines as many times as possible, and his colleagues at Epic Science pledged between $1 and $5 dollars for each hill climb. Epic Sciences is an oncology diagnostics company with a written ethos centered on cancer patients. After getting over their initial surprise at the idea, the concept resonated.

“The response was absolutely incredible. After my first email, I got a small whiteboard at work with a column for name and amount pledged.  Later in the week, I was able to make a short plug at a company meeting and the response snowballed to the point where I needed a bigger whiteboard (pictured). All in all, the response totaled about $2K.”

Pledge board smallThe generous support of his colleagues, family and friends humbled Ryon’s expectations. And everyone had a great time with the event. “I would have to say that the magnitude of support was incredible. Also, I was surprised by how many people came out to climb with me on Torrey Pines! Throughout the morning, I was joined by Ryan Denner, Shannon Castle, Nic and Katelyn Willis, and Andrew Ulvestad. At points I had a small posse going up the hill with me!”

Throughout the pledge and ride, Ryon focused on the positive message of supporting cancer research. “I emphasized that it was a great cause, and that donations are going to innovative research with direct patient impacts. I made my fundraising less about tugging on heartstrings and more about a fun, healthy challenge. I would often ask if one would like to donate just $1 per lap.”

And, like most things worth doing, the hardest part was getting started. Ryon had to overcome his shyness about asking for donations, but it was all worth it in the end. “Doing 20 Torrey Pines repeats seemed easier than asking for donations! But by the time all the support was pledged, I really felt like many people were behind me in this effort every time up the hill, and I am extremely thankful for the support of friends and co-workers.”

Between everyone at Epic Sciences and Ryon’s friends and family, thirty people pledged between $1 and $5 per Torrey Pines ascent. On a recent Saturday morning, Ryon started at 7 am, and at 11:58 he rolled (limped?) in for #20. After riding horizontal 72.3 miles and 8,625 vertical feet, Ryon raised about $2,000 for local cancer research.

Ryon Graf's Climb

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