Ride FAR’s Impact: Autism Mom Erin Lopes Explains How ASF-Funded Autism Research Improves Lives

ASF is so grateful to everyone who participated in the 2022 Rides FAR event, which shattered all previous fundraising records and brought in more than $1 million for the first time in the event’s eight-year history. The money raised will be used to fund autism research that improves lives. ASF would like to give special thanks to autism mom Erin Lopes for speaking at the Wall Street Rides FAR event in New York about how the funds raised by the Rides FAR community make a positive difference in many lives. Read the full text of her speech below:

Erin Lopes smiles onstage at the 2022 Rides FAR event in New York
Erin Lopes at the 2022 Wall Street Rides FAR event in New York

I am so very honored to be here today. It’s an honor to participate in the Rides FAR event for the Autism Science Foundation and it’s an honor to be here speaking to you.

When Julie Berger reached out to me about providing the closing remarks for Rides FAR I was sitting in my office at work and I had just gotten off the phone with my son Tommy. Tommy just moved into his own apartment two weeks before.

I told Julie yes without hesitation. It occurred to me that the timing here is pretty significant: I’m up here because of my son Tommy. Tommy is a young autistic adult. Some of you may remember him as the young man who played Fleetwood Mac on his acoustic guitar at the Day of Learning last spring. Tommy was first diagnosed with autism in the Fall of 2002. I was brought into the autism community 20 years ago.

So, as I speak to the importance of science and the work that the Autism Science Foundation is doing, I’d like to reflect on what the autism research landscape was like 20 years ago when Tommy was first diagnosed. I can honestly sum it up in one word – bleak. We didn’t have a good scientific understanding of autism at that time. And in the absence of that people filled in all kinds of myths, like autism is caused by bad parenting or vaccines or not having enough parasites in your gut or maybe having too many parasites in your gut. The list seemed endless.

And the problem with the poor understanding about autism was that those myths perpetuated stigma around it. That stigma put up barriers to opportunity that made my son’s life really, really difficult. When we would go into the community to find opportunities for him that stigma was reflected in the disapproving stares to sometimes outright exclusion and hostility. Maybe I speak in solidarity with some of the parents here – we carry the trauma of that. Back then, I felt strongly that the stigma was fueled by lack of clear science to help us understand the biological basis of autism. It was a rougher road back then.

We reached a significant milestone when the Autism Science Foundation was established by Alison Singer in 2009. I remember when I first heard about ASF and that the mission was to fund evidence-based research into better understanding autism. Evidence-based. Those words rang out like a chorus for me because the autism community needed the scientific community’s attention and focus. We needed the application of evidence-based research.

Since 2009 a lot of important work has been funded by ASF. From the wandering study to the Autism Sisters project to the genetic basis of autism, the neurobiology of social behavior, understanding the function of genes like MECP2 and SHANK3 to evidence-based interventions

in schools. Over the last 13 years, the data from those studies have had a ripple effect: The studies funded by ASF get published. And then pediatricians start downloading it. Then primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and registered nurses start to download and read the data. The data shape our understanding of autism and shifts us to an evidence-based approach to treatment.

And then we see a change in how other communities approach autism. The science becomes available to teachers, social workers, school counselors, behavioral specialists and then evidence-based approaches get applied in education settings. The textbooks that define what autism is and isn’t – those change because of the science.

The ripple of evidence-based research extends to the broader community and influences perceptions and attitudes about autism that challenge stigma. The ripple starts to shape what inclusion of people with autism looks like and after 2009 we hear more about words like acceptance. There are opportunities that exist now for adults like my son that simply were not there 20 years ago. Society has changed for people with autism.

And it’s the science that drives that change.

We’ve made great progress through autism research but we still have a long way to go before we have equal opportunities for people with autism regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. There are significant barriers that still exist in access to medical treatment, access to early intervention, access to transportation, meaningful education and meaningful employment. We absolutely need the science because it opens up the path for us to move us forward.

The takeaway I would like to leave you with today is this – societal change will happen. The science we fund through ASF shapes that change and shapes the futures of people on the spectrum. This event, your enthusiasm and commitment to funding evidence-based research in autism have a significance that goes beyond this rainy day and will carry us forward. And it gives me great hope for the autism community. So, I want to thank every one of you for being here today, for supporting this event, for supporting the Autism Science Foundation. For supporting people like my son Tommy. For supporting all individuals with autism. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart.

I want to thank Alison Singer, Alycia Halliday Ross, Julie Berger, Kathy Ehrich Dowd and Casey Casey for their outstanding work at ASF.

Thank you Bryan and Melissa for your amazing work with Rides FAR. A million dollars!!!!!

Annual charity event to benefit the Autism Science Foundation celebrates its seventh year by ringing the NYSE Closing Bell®

Wall Street Rides FAR (For Autism Research), the annual charity cycling and walking event benefiting the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), today announced that it will ring the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Closing Bell® on August 30, 2021. The event, which was co-founded seven years ago by Bryan and Melissa Harkins, has raised over $2 million to date for ASF, each year attracting some of the most prominent firms on Wall Street and beyond to participate. 

“We are thrilled to once again return to the floor of the iconic NYSE to promote the Ride and champion the critical mission of the Autism Science Foundation,” said Bryan Harkins, who is President of BIDS Trading and EVP, Cboe Global Markets. “What makes this event so unique and powerful is the incredible sense of community that is displayed by firms across the industry, many of which are fierce rivals during the day, coming together to support this incredible cause. In standing together with our sponsors on the podium, that sense of community is heightened, and we are indebted to them for their unwavering support.” 

“ASF is incredibly grateful to the NYSE for giving Wall Street Rides FAR the opportunity to ring the bell, and to the Wall Street community, which has been so supportive of our organization,” said Alison Singer, President and Co-Founder of ASF. “The funding from Wall Street Rides FAR has made a significant impact in the lives of people with autism spectrum disorder and their families, and we look forward to another successful ride in October.”

This year’s Wall Street Rides FAR (WSRF) will be held on October 2, 2021, once again at Saxon Woods Park in White Plains. The ride offers courses for participants of all abilities – family rides of 4 and 12 miles, longer rides of 20, 30 or 62 miles, and a 5K trail walk. Since the inaugural event in 2015, the Ride has grown rapidly in terms of participants, sponsors and industry reach, last year raising $435,000. WSRF will also feature two satellite rides for the first time, this year in Baltimore, Maryland and Toronto, Canada. 

WSRF attracts many of the industry’s most prominent trading and financial services firms as participants, with companies including T Rowe Price, Cboe, FTX, GTS, Paxos, XTX, Tower Research Capital and Trumid sponsoring (see the full list of sponsors here). Firms interested in joining the roster of sponsors can find more information here and individual riders interested in signing up may do so at https://wallstreetridesfar.org/register/.

All proceeds from WSRF go to the Autism Science Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that supports autism research by providing funding and other assistance to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research. The organization also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders – which today impacts 1 in 54 children – and the needs of individuals and families affected by them. 

The Closing Bell will ring at 4:00 pm EDT and can be viewed live on the NYSE’s website. Photos and video of the bell ringing will be available via Facebook and Twitter @NYSE.



Alex Hamer

Forefront Communications for Wall Street Rides FAR


New York, Jan. 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing innovative autism research, today announced the appointment of Bryan Harkins, Executive Vice President and Head of Markets, Cboe Global Markets, to its Board of Directors. The announcement was made by Gregg Ireland, Chairman of the ASF Board of Directors, and Alison Singer, President of the ASF.

As a member of the Board of Directors, Harkins will help set the direction for the Foundation’s fundraising and support efforts for an organization leading the charge on autism research. In addition, he will help guide ASF’s efforts to educate the general public and increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders.

Harkins is the co-founder of Wall Street Rides FAR, an annual series of charity bike rides benefiting the Autism Science Foundation. Launched in 2015 by Bryan and his wife Melissa, both Wall Street veterans, the event brings together professionals from across the financial services industry on a variety of routes through Westchester County, New York, and has set new fundraising records each year. To date, Wall Street Rides FAR has raised more than $1.25 million and enjoys broad industry participation, including all of the major exchange groups.

Harkins joined Cboe Global Markets as Executive Vice President, Head of Markets in 2017 as part of Cboe’s acquisition of BATS Global Markets. Based in New York, he runs the client service, product development, and competitive strategy for the company’s U.S. equities, futures, options, and global foreign exchange businesses, its suite of market data and access services products, as well as the firm’s growing listings business. He is a graduate of The University of Notre Dame and has an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“Bryan is a leader on Wall Street and a leader in the autism advocacy community,” said Singer. “As co-founder and chair of our flagship Wall Street Rides FAR event, he has demonstrated one of the most important qualities for philanthropy to succeed: inspiring others to do as much as they can. Bryan’s vision and determination will be invaluable in driving our mission.”

“It’s an honor and privilege to be able to join ASF’s Board of Directors,” said Harkins. “When Melissa and I created Wall Street Rides FAR, we knew we wanted to partner with an organization specifically committed to funding research and moving us closer to a cure. Working with ASF for more than five years, we’ve seen firsthand how they set the standard, and I’m excited to be able to do whatever I can for this great organization that’s helping improve the lives of so many.”

About the Autism Science Foundation:
The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting cutting-edge autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org.

Sam Belden
Forefront Communications for Autism Science Foundation