No one will deny that Wall Street can be a competitive place. But Bryan and Melissa Harkins have found the perfect way to put those competitive energies to good use—and for a good cause.
The annual Wall Street Rides FAR charity event brings together hundreds of people from across the financial markets to benefit autism research. Now in its fourth year, the event has raised a cumulative total of roughly $1 million. The funds go to the Autism Science Foundation, which provides assistance to scientists and researchers studying the genetic causes behind the disorder.
The annual event was launched by Bryan and Melissa as a way to leverage their connections on Wall Street and their interest in fitness. Bryan is an executive vice president at Cboe Global Markets and co-head of its markets division, and Melissa is a former equities trader who recently launched a women’s cycling and apparel company. Both of them have completed the famous Ironman Triathlon that consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile marathon run.
“My wife Melissa and I had long wanted to use our Wall Street networks to bring people together for a cause,” Bryan said. “Autism had our interest from the very beginning because it affects so many in our communities, whether directly or indirectly.”
This year’s event took place on Oct. 13 in White Plains, N.Y. More than 200 riders participated, with some opting for an ambitious 62- mile route around Saxon Woods Country Park and others opting to bring their families on a more leisurely 4-mile ride.
The 2018 ride was the biggest yet, with teams competing from all corners of the financial industry. Participating firms included Cboe, Nasdaq, NYSE, ABN Amro Clearing, Citadel, XTX, Chicago Trading Company, Eaton Vance, IMC and Susquehanna to name a few. Contributions from riders, sponsors, families and friends raised more than $350,000 for the Foundation.
“One of the things that sets the Autism Science Foundation apart from other autism charities is its focus on autism research. As autism is known to have a strong genetic component, much of the work they fund is focused on discovering the mechanisms of action that trigger autism, in addition to treatments to enhance the quality of life of those affected,” Bryan told MarketVoice.
In addition to the annual bike ride in White Plains, Wall Street Rides FAR also partnered with the Security Traders Association for a 5k charity run on Oct. 5 during the group’s 2018 Market Structure Conference in Washington, D.C. FIA participated in that event, which included a guided run around the sights of the nation’s capital, including the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
"We continue to be floored by the incredible generosity displayed by the Wall Street community and Wall Street Rides FAR,” said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. “The $350,000 we raised this year will go a long way towards supporting our 14 research fellows across the country, who are working diligently to learn more about autism and the mechanisms that cause it. It will also help us continue initiatives like the Autism Sisters Project, which collects genetic data from unaffected sisters of those with autism in an effort to understand why autism is so much more prevalent among males.”
While admittedly only a select few have the stamina to embark on the 62-miles of winding roads that make up the longest course, the bottom line is that the cause resonates with everyone, Bryan said. Autism affects 1 in every 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning that “no matter where you work or live, chances are you have a personal connection to someone facing the challenges of autism,” he said.
Judging by the high volume of participation after just a few short years, it’s safe to say that Wall Street Rides FAR is well on its way to becoming an annual tradition of the investing community and a significant contributor to autism research. “Wall Street Rides FAR is open to everyone, not just Wall Streeters,” he said. “This event is growing every year, and we want to include as many people as possible.”