For the past five years, employees from leading market makers, brokers, exchanges, crypto market participants and other financial services companies have marked the shortening days and changing fall foliage by participating in Wall Street Rides FAR, an annual charity bike ride benefitting the Autism Science Foundation (ASF). This year is no exception, but there is one major difference: the event will be fully virtual.
The explanation is a familiar one. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the live events circuit, and the Ride, which hosts hundreds of riders and volunteers, was not able to move ahead with the in-person gathering they’d hoped for.
“Throughout the summer, we kept in close contact with the local authorities and the CDC in hopes of putting together a safe, socially distanced plan for the ride, but despite our best efforts we will not be able to host a live event in Westchester County,” said Bryan Harkins, Executive Vice President, Head of Markets at Cboe Global Markets and co-founder of the Ride. “We are disappointed, but we respect the county’s desire to keep everyone healthy. Instead, we are proceeding with our virtual ride plan, which will be a fun, interactive experience that strives to capture the spirit of the event.”
This Saturday (October 3rd), registered riders will tune in to stream the remote opening ceremony, then hop on their bikes and navigate their own routes. Some of the teams, which are mostly comprised of employees of sponsoring firms, are even hosting their own distanced gatherings throughout the US, Canada and even Singapore. Riders will also receive virtual ride kits including branded swag, snacks and more, all in an effort to emulate some of the onsite experience.
“The community atmosphere that surrounds Wall Street Rides FAR is a big part of what has made the event so successful in just a few short years,” said Melissa Harkins, the other co-founder of the Ride. “Our riders and sponsors are incredibly generous, so it’s important that we give them the best experience we can, even amid these extraordinary circumstances.”
How generous? Last year, the Ride passed the $1.5 million mark in funds raised for ASF since the launch of the event. Some of the riders are fueled by a competitive urge, says Harkins – many of the sponsoring firms are fierce rivals during the work week, always trying to outdo each other, and this dynamic extends to raising money for charity. This year perennial fundraising champ NYSE faces stiff competition from Bay Street, with Canada’s NEO Exchange – a new entrant in 2020 — hot on their heels for the pledge donation crown.
But the main reason the Ride has resonated is much simpler: the cause. Autism touches a huge number of lives both within the Wall Street community and more broadly – according to the CDC, approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase from 1 in 59 only two years ago.
The events of the pandemic have raised the stakes for this fundraiser. Due to widespread school closures and the disruption to many in-person forms of intervention and therapy, individuals with an ASD have been disproportionately affected, according to Alison Singer, President and Co-Founder of ASF. The pandemic has also presented challenges for the research community.
“Many of the families we serve are struggling as the supports and routines they rely on have been taken away,” said Singer. “At this difficult time, it is more crucial than ever to fund the research projects that could lead to critical breakthroughs that will improve the day-to-day lives and long-term outcomes of people with an ASD.”
ASF has remained busy amid the pandemic, announcing several new funding mechanisms designed to help researchers weather the disruption. The organization recently completed its seventh annual Day of Learning, held virtually for the first time.
Great cycling, great people and a great cause – it all adds up to a highly anticipated fall tradition. Despite the absence of the in-person component, Harkins believes that riders will enjoy the Plan B.
“One of the silver linings of all this is that we can reach a more widespread audience and have more geographic variety in our push to support autism research. While we are eager to host the event in person again in 2021, we intend to keep a virtual aspect so that people can also participate wherever they are around the globe. No matter where you are, please join us on October 3!”
Click here for photo’s of last year’s Wall Street Rides FAR event.