Ride-n-raise/rock-n-roll: JBBBS Development Associate, Zoa Mish, on the Rodman Ride

Zoa and her husband, Gavin, work the water stop!

Zoa and her husband, Gavin, work the water stop!

A few blogs ago you read about our fabulous volunteer, Lisa Kessel,  her friend, Meredith, and their experience volunteering at the JBBBS water stop at last year’s Rodman Ride for Kids. At JBBBS, we like to do things Bigger and Better, so I am excited to announce that – if you were inspired by Lisa and Meredith’s story – there are still opportunities for volunteers to join us September 20 at our Lake Massapoag water stop in Sharon! This year, we’ll be “Rock-n-rolling, Elvis Style!”

Help us make the Big Brothers Big Sisters water stop for the Rodman Ride for Kids a safe and fun place for those riding-n-raising on behalf of the 45 non-profits participating in the Ride. Set up, decorate and prepare snacks for the more than 1200 riders to pass through that day. Dig into your closet for something that screams rock-n-roll and wear it  for a chance to win gift certificates to popular coffee places and restaurants!

Not riding-n-raising? Spend three hours with us. Here’s what you need to know.

Location: Lake Massapoag (1 Beach St., Sharon, MA)

Date: Saturday, September 20

Time: 7:30 am to 3:00 pm (various volunteer shifts available)

Cost: Free!!

For  more information contact me, Zoa Mish, directly at zoa@jbbbs.org, and I will be more than happy to send you information about this fabulous opportunity to give back to JBBBS.

I can’t wait to hear from you.


Why I Ride (tandem): Jessi Solomon.

I am so excited that my new friend, Julia, and I will be riding tandem in the 2014 Rodman Ride for Kids. This past June, I moved to Boston to accept a first job as a physician: a residency in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital – and Julia is among my new friends here.

We were introduced through JBBBS’ Friend 2 Friend Program three months ago, and she has already influenced my life more than I expected she might. I was drawn to Friend 2 Friend right away. I went to college and medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where I was active in the school’s Best Buddies chapter and where I was introduced to my Best Buddy (and now best friend), Christy. We changed a lot in those eight years and achieved a lot together.  When I moved to Boston, I knew I wanted to have another friend with whom I could try new things, inspire/be inspired, and spread the word about how wonderful it is to live in an inclusive community. To me, friendship is the most meaningful way to truly include people with disabilities in the community.

With Julia, I’ve replicated that experience. She loves William Shakespeare, musicals, good food, and hanging out with friends. I love bike-riding, music, hiking, performing arts, and hanging out with friends. We enjoy some of these activities in common, and we love discovering new things.

Julia and Jessi, tandem.

Julia and Jessi, tandem.

Recently, we picnicked and watched a Shakespeare on the Common production of “Twelfth Night.” I was in awe of Julia’s complex understanding and appreciation of the arts; she understood the language and humor better than I, and her enthusiasm enriched the experience for me. In just the past three months, I have tried Russian food for the first time, Julia has been sailing and biking for the first time, we have listened to music, played music, enjoyed art galleries, attended cultural festivals, learned about each other’s families, and talked about our days at work over the phone. I know the friendship has meant a lot to Julia, as it has for me. Recently, we spent a full day together exploring Boston, giggling, bicycling around, and meeting new friends. “Jess, you’re spoiling me,” she said. Both of us truly appreciate the time we spend together; we’re always finding more in common and lots to learn from one another.

Julia had never ridden a bike before. I have been riding bikes since early childhood. In Nashville, I taught my Buddy, Christy, to ride a tandem bike, and we loved riding all around Tennessee.  Through that program, I helped create a tandem bike “team” of pairs of friends with and without intellectual/developmental disabilities. But, Julia and her mother did not think there would be any way Julia would be able to ride a bike. She’d never tried. Because I am pretty small, they thought Julia and I would not be able to balance on a tandem together. In truth, it is not easy for anyone to bike on a tandem, especially when first learning to balance/focus together. As the name “tandem” implies, every movement must be made in tandem in order to ride without falling.

I reassured Julia and her mom that I knew Julia had it in her to ride. She is motivated to try new things, and I could sense that she would succeed. She did: We balanced on our first try and rode all the way around Jamaica Pond. Julia surprised herself and takes enormous pride in proving she can indeed achieve a goal her mother thought impossible. Her pride helps keep me going on the bike. Now Julia and I ride tandem at least once a week, and Julia trains on a stationary bike at the JCC. Together, we are training to support the Rodman Ride on September 20, to challenge ourselves to ride, to bond in the process through 25 miles of tandem pedaling. We hope to inspire other Friend 2 Friend pairs to challenge each other to pursue activities they may not have thought possible.

William Shakespeare said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Through the Friend 2 Friend Program, Julia and I have begun to grow together. I know our friendship will blossom and that we will have many more meaningful interactions and experiences together.

Why I Ride: Justin Gilson.

Shortly, I will be riding in my third Rodman Ride for Kids with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ “YoPro” (Young Professionals) Team – and I fully expect this year to be better than the last. With each year, the support and turnout feels bigger and better, which in turn makes me even more excited to ride.

I am fortunate that the Ride takes us through several towns which include my hometown! As I bike through the familiar streets, the highlight of the day is certainly riding past my family’s home and seeing them cheer me and the rest of the cyclists on.  It is amazing to see so many people participate and volunteer from the community where I grew up.

Given the hundreds of people on the course representing numerous organizations, I always like how our YoPro and JBBBS teams are given custom biking shirts, which make us easy to pick out of the crowd. It’s a shirt – but I think it adds to a sense of camaraderie and team spirit. Our team also sets up practice rides leading up to race day that allow us to hang out a bit more (not to mention give us all a little extra exercise for those 10-mile weekend rides).

Besides the ridiculous amounts of food  donated last year (donuts, bagels, and BBQ lunch!) I thoroughly enjoyed recruiting my younger brother to ride along with our YoPro team. It was a fun day all-around, made even better by having family ride with me. (Of course in typical younger brother fashion, we were neck-and-neck for 24.9 miles…until he decided to kick it into another gear at the finish line.)

Bros at the water stop.

Bros at the water stop.

Although the Rodman Ride will, no doubt, be awesome in 2014, I will make sure it’s made more so by beating my brother to the finish.


Why I Ride: Karen Sisselman.

Seven years ago, my friend, Elyse Marsh, asked if I wanted to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids.  Elyse and I are both actively involved in JBBBS: both board members and both volunteers. (Elyse is a Friend 2 Friend volunteer. I’m a  Big Sister.)  So, I quickly agreed.  The Rodman Ride was more fun and moving that we had anticipated. Hence, began a 7-year tradition of riding “The Ride.”

Karen and Elyse, Rodman Ride 2013.

Karen and Elyse, Rodman Ride 2013.

Each year, the day has begun the same.  Getting up early and making sure we have all our gear, checking the air in our tires and then heading out to Foxboro.  My excitement builds as we pull into the parking lot and join the mass of bikers – each representing a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help improve the lives of at-risk kids.  At this point, I always feel proud to be a part of this community and am honored to wear my JBBBS bike shirt (which is always pretty cool).  My energy level peaks when I join my fellow JBBBS riders, all of whom are either fellow board members, volunteers in our programs or just “good friends” of the agency.

Although I have always done the 25 mile ride, each year the actual ride has been a little different.  Some years the sun has been shining and other years it has been cool and drizzly.  But certain things are always the same: The crowd on the streets cheering us on and the extraordinary support and encouragement from the numerous volunteers along the route.  And of course, there is the incredible sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line. It may only be 25 miles, but I am helping raise money to support our Little Brothers and Sisters and adults who have disabilities.

The day ends with a BBQ that consists of not only great food but also exudes the spirit of the day.  I so look forward to this year’s Ride!


Why I Ride: Captain Cheatham!

I have had a love affair with the Ride ever since I first rode 100 miles with Harvey Lowell, JBBBS President/CEO, and the rest of the JBBBS crew back in 2008.  I have personally been an avid cyclist since 2002 and find that the combination of the mission and my passion for cycling is an unbeatable combination.

The Ride has many dimensions for me.  First and foremost is the opportunity it gives me to reach out and solicit.  I get to leverage my being a committed rider with being a Big Brother. It provides an opportunity for me to connect with my friends and engage them in the agency’s mission and the work that we do.  Asking for money is easy in this context and by so doing I am able to expand the supporter base for the agency.

Secondly, I find the energy around the Ride infectious. It creates a whole new social group which I value apart from the Ride.  Friendships have been made that persist and spill over into other areas in support of the agency.   As team captain over the past few years, it has been fun to put together training rides and to show people who have not ridden in many years that the 25-mile loop is not out of their reach. Together, we can complete the Ride.  The practice rides created confidence and a sense of comradery for all.

Finally, the day of the Ride is a real high.  The sendoff crowd is energizing, the water stops are colorful (and theme-based) and help introduce the riders to the other agencies that are involved and share the mission of serving children at risk.  My wife, Suzie, has gotten involved at our water stop and I enjoy seeing her there and then meeting up with everyone at the finish line.   I have also very much enjoyed accompanying other riders and encouraging them along the way.  All in all, an event not to be missed and keeping up the tradition year in and year out is an honor to be part of.

So come out and join our training sessions and ride even if the last time you rode was 20 years ago! You will find how very worthwhile it is. See you September 20.


Why I Ride: Jeff Ganz.

I love to ride and, whenever I can sneak away for an hour or two, I head for the single lane roads of Metro West Boston to take advantage of the time to be outside, to enjoy the fresh air, and to feel the accompanying exertion.  With that love, though, there is always the twinge of guilt that follows: Cycling can be a bit of a selfish pursuit and it always competes for time with family, work, and other obligations.

But that feeling disappears each September at the Rodman Ride for Kids.  That’s the one day each year that I know I am riding for someone other than myself.  And the people I am riding for aren’t just an abstraction.  They include Josh, the Little Brother I spent three years getting to know, and the more than 80 Little Brothers and Sisters the organization sends to camp each summer.  They also include the volunteers, Big Brothers and Sisters, who spend their free time making a real difference.

And, of course, there is no better fundraising model than the Rodman Ride’s – with the event organizers, sponsors and vendors picking up all of the costs and then matching a portion of our fundraising. It’s virtually unheard of at a time when fundraising is a challenge and there are so many organizations deserving of our support.

My distance of choice is 50 miles and it’s typically my longest ride of the season.  Regardless of how hard I have been training over the summer, though, I know the that the energy of the volunteers at each of the three water stops will carry me through.  (This was true even during the year that I was part of a group of about 20 Rodman Riders that went the wrong way and added about five miles to our trip before we were rescued by a local police officer who set us back on the right path!)

And when I am done with the Ride, exhausted and enjoying a cold refreshment and some great barbecue, I gaze out at my fellow riders and think about what we have all just accomplished. I begin  looking forward to doing it again next year.  I hope you will join us.


Why I Ride: Beth Cohen.

This is the fifth year I’ll be riding in the Rodman Ride for Kids, and I’m (still) excited about the challenge that’s once again upon me. 

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

I’ve been matched with my Little Sister for over 13 years. We officially “aged out” of the program a year or two ago, but we’re closer and better friends than ever. She’s a wonderful, intelligent person, pretty, mature and full of energy, friendly and, in general, someone I’m just so glad is in my life! These days, she’s in college studying to be an engineer, and I’m very proud of her.

Beth Cohen with her "Little" Sister.

Beth Cohen with her “Little” Sister.


I ride because it’s a great challenge for me, physically (I tackle the 100 miles!) and mentally. I ride because I’ve experienced firsthand the time and diligence the JBBBS organization takes to make strong, sustainable matches. I ride because I know what an incredible impact Big and Little Brothers and Sisters have on one another. Mostly, though, I ride so other children can experience the joy of Big/Little friendship for themselves.  


Beth Cohen is a member of JBBBS’ YoPro (Young Professionals) Leadership Board. Meet Beth and other JBBBS YoPros at this year’s Ride!


I may not ride, but… (with JBBBS/Rodman Ride volunteer, Lisa Kessel).

I’m a supporter both of the event and one of the agencies it benefits, JBBBS. Here’s why…

It was a beautiful day last September. The sun was shining brightly and you could feel the energy in the air as my friend, Meredith, and I approached the registration desk, ready to volunteer.  We slipped into our bright yellow Ride shirts and walked together with our noisemakers to the spot where we were assigned to cheer on hundreds of bikers as they sped past.

Meredith and I are matched in JBBBS’ Friend 2 Friend MAGIC Program, which serves adults with disabilities. We see each other once a month for a group activity with other matches. And while we enjoy that time with friends, we occasionally like to step outside the box and do something special together apart from the group.

Lisa Kessel (right) and Meredith at the Rodman Ride for Kids, 2013.

Lisa Kessel (right) and Meredith at the Rodman Ride for Kids, 2013.

As a non-rider, when I was approached about volunteering I was admittedly skeptical about whether I’d have fun. But, a supporter of JBBBS, I decided to give a few hours to the cause. And it was inspiring to be in the presence of others who support the agency with their time and money.

I was pleased to be able to spend that beautiful  afternoon with Meredith. Her eagerness to be involved, to help, was contagious. As we prepared PB&J’s for the riders and met others volunteers, I felt truly lucky to be part of such a great program. MAGIC  brought us together, and we’ve really bonded.

As we approach our two-year match anniversary, I  think back to all of the special events we have experienced. While I have fond recollections of big group activities and social events, I can honestly say that last year’s Rodman Ride was one of the more significant events that not only strengthened our relationship but also gave both of us a chance to celebrate a program we love.


Why I Ride: Lester Blumberg.

What is it that gets me out of bed before dawn to drive down to Foxborough and cycle 100 miles?  It isn’t just the party at the end of the ride!

My passion for the Rodman Ride for Kids is driven by the vital mission of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, by the real difference JBBBS makes in the lives of children in need and adults with disabilities, and by the way my own life has been enriched by my friendship with a terrific kid who just needed an adult to hang out, have fun and eat ice cream (lot’s of ice cream!) with him. It is easy for me to appreciate the value in what we do, since I see it firsthand.  What is so touching is that my community of friends and family also see the value, and donate to support my participation in the Ride.  The money we raise goes directly to supporting this important work. The ride is really just the icing on the cake.

JBBBS gives Lester a good reason to Rodman Ride.

JBBBS gives Lester a good reason to Rodman Ride.

Did I mention the great party?  Riders support more than 45 agencies and share a common dedication to serving kids and supporting the devoted staff and volunteers who have dedicated their careers (and free time) to making better the lives of children and families in our communities who are in need.  We finish the ride tired and hungry, uplifted by music and the cheers of friends, old and new.

This will be my sixth Rodman Ride.  In the years since my first Ride on a clunker of a mountain bike, I have become something of a cycling enthusiast.  I upgraded my bike, and cycling keeps me in pretty good shape.  But I always come back to the Rodman Ride.  It’s why I ride today. It’s the cause that gives my enthusiasm for riding a deeper meaning.

Join us this year!  You won’t regret it!


Why I Ride: Caryn Love.

In fall 2013, I participated in the Rodman Ride for Kids for the first time.  A former Big Sister, I joined the agency’s clinical team that August.

I was excited for the Ride, but I was also pretty nervous. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. I didn’t even own one!  I was reassured however that 25 miles isn’t so bad, “most of it is downhill anyway,” and, indeed, I could do it. I had only five weeks to train. First things first: I hopped on a bike at the gym and commenced my search for a bike for Ride day.

Here in the office, my colleagues lent their support. One’s wife had a bike I could borrow, another offered me hers because she wasn’t riding… In the end, I took Lisa Cohen, our Vice President of Programs, up on her offer.  Her husband even lent me a bike rack! With bike in hand, I went on my first training ride through Brighton and Newton. I was nervous to drive through traffic but, after about five miles, felt surer of myself and continued on. I managed to ride 15 miles for the first time in my life that day. Ten more? A piece of cake, I thought.

On the day of the Ride, Harvey Lowell [JBBBS President/CEO] and his son, Shalom, rode on their tandem bike, and I started the race with them.  We rode together much of the time with Harvey and Shalom helping to lead the way.  It really was a lot of fun.  We made it to the first water stop where we had some snacks, saw all our JBBBS friends, and it was off for the rest of the ride.  It was a beautiful day and quite exhilarating to ride those 25 miles through Sharon and surrounding towns.

Caryn and Shalom

Caryn and Shalom at the water stop.

At the end, going through the finish line, I was tired and definitely ready to get off the bike. I was also  touched by the support both from JBBBS colleagues and volunteers who were ringing bells and cheering.  I was so happy that I was encouraged to ride and can’t wait to do it all over again!