Industry Leaders Rock the Road

Seven years ago, Shirli Sensenbrenner, senior vice president of design and construction for Destination Hotels, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. She has four kids, with the youngest at the time of diagnosis being in second grade. Her doctor initially told her she had seven or eight more years to live. After chemotherapy failed and the weight of the impending future was beginning to leave its marks, Sensenbrenner’s doctor told her the best news she had heard in a while—that due to advancing research, she would be able to live to see her grandchildren.

Rock the Road is an annual fundraising event hosted by Rockbridge, a U.S. investing firm, inviting industry leaders to come together with one goal in mind: To end cancer by supporting Pelotonia, the nation’s largest cycling event benefiting cancer research. Such research includes the drug that has prolonged Sensenbrenner’s life.

“Rock the Road started out being an opportunity for the hospitality industry to contribute to cancer research and is positioned to expand into a premier conference experience that extends beyond hospitality. Leadership and innovation have no boundaries,” said Rockbridge CEO Jim Merkel. “Our goal of disrupting the industry by incorporating good business, personal fulfillment, and giving back—all to reach a higher purpose—is well underway.”

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Team Rockbridge is currently ranked No. 4 on Pelotonia’s “Top 10 Pelotons” list, and last year raised over $700,000. After this year’s Aug. 4–7 race, Rockbridge has raised around $556,886 so far, but with the fundraising opportunity ending Oct. 7, the company hopes that number increases exponentially. And the team is already setting its sights on next year. “This is a 24/7, 365-day effort,” says Merkel.“ We’re not only looking at this October and the money that we’re raising, that’s this year, but we’re already starting to focus on next year and our goal of raising $1 million.”

Rock the Road provides its riders with a bike, team jersey, and helmet upon signing up to ride and raising a minimum of $100. This year, the team had 137 members, 24 virtual riders (individuals who decided to only fundraise and not ride or volunteer), and eight volunteers participate in the actual cycling event, under the leadership of team captain Adam Giere.

“We call it the triple bottom line,” Merkel says. “First, people can come and do good business, network, and meet with people, just like they would at any other conference. Second, they are personally fulfilled and learn about leadership and innovation, and take at least one nugget of it back with them to improve personally. Third, that collectively we can make a difference and raise a lot of money to cure cancer and end the disease.”

He continues, “Our families, friends, and colleagues are all affected by cancer. We started Rock the Road because we refuse to stand by and do nothing. Each and every year, Rockbridge builds on its vision for Rock the Road, continuing to work side by side with innovative leaders toward our vision of living in a cancer-free world.”