Person of the Week
Ed Riley: Gearing Up for a Great Ride
A board member of Vista Life Innovations, Ed Riley organizes the volunteer manpower at its annual Tour de Shore fundraising ride. The whole community is invited to attend the event’s kickoff party on Thursday, June 28 and get inspired to start training for the big ride on Sunday, Oct. 14. (Photo by Susan Talpey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Ed Riley is a great guy to know–and if you participate in big community charity events along the shoreline, chances are you probably do. A life-long community volunteer, Ed’s always eager to rally his troops and bring many hands to make the event a success.
“Volunteering is who I am. Doing volunteer work always feel good, but it’s even better when you’re doing something you enjoy. If you do what you’re good at, you’ll have fun and do even more,” he says.
With many years of experience as volunteer chair with the Madison Jaycees’ largest fundraisers, Ed is gearing up for his eighth year with the annual Westbrook-based Tour de Shore ride, raising funds to benefit Vista Life Innovations.
“Vista is a great organization that supports and helps local people with disabilities go through their various stages of life, from education to living independently,” he says. “When I learned about Vista and the incredible work they do, I said, ‘How can I help to raise money for them?’ They needed a hand with the event, so I jumped in to help with volunteers and with fundraising.”
While the event is a few months away, Ed and the Vista team are already busy planning for its success. On Thursday, June 28, all are welcome at the Tour de Shore Kickoff Party at Zane’s Cycles, 330 East Main Street, Branford.
“The Vista Tour De Shore is a wonderful event and our goal is to have fun and raise as much money as we can,” he says.
“We call it ‘The last great ride of the fall’ because it’s a beautiful ride through the hills and along the Connecticut coast during the nicest foliage time of the year. There are different distances so that everyone can pick one that suits them, and after the ride, we have a wonderful family event at Westbrook Elks Lodge where all the riders, lots of the Vista students and staff, and all the volunteers can hang out together.”
Among the many volunteers who help make the event run smoothly are Ed’s friends and his Wells Fargo co-workers.
“I’m not afraid to ask people to help and I’m blessed to have many great friends who always show up when you need them,” he says. “Every year, we have a group of 20 or 25 volunteers from Wells Fargo and it’s great to be supported by your team mates. Some of the people don’t even live on the shoreline, but they come in and volunteer because they know it’s a really good cause.”
Inspired by Vista’s important work in the community, Ed stepped up from his event role to join the board of directors in 2016.
“It’s rewarding and it’s challenging. In a time of state budget cuts and where funding is reduced, we need to work extra hard to help those people who need our help,” he says. “We all have friends and family s with disabilities, and the ride is a really great event that supports a wonderful organization that takes care of our family and friends.”
Now in its 10th year, the Tour de Shore has raised $460,000 for the Vista Endowment Fund, with 220 riders spinning their wheels last year. Vista Life Innovations Director of Organizational Development and Communications Malley O’Shea says that Ed’s contribution is critical to the event’s success.
“Ed is as community-focused as they come. He goes above and beyond for the organizations he is committed to. He volunteers countless hours and works to connect non-profits with available resources and community partners,” she says. “Vista is very fortunate to count Ed among our champions supporting adults with disabilities achieve personal success.”
Keeping a Family Tradition Alive
Growing up the grandson of four Irish immigrants in Quincy, Massachusetts, Ed’s family had a proud tradition of giving back to the community and helping their neighbors.
“My parents always taught me to give back to the community and to volunteer. When I grew up, they were always at St. Vincent de Paul feeding someone, or helping someone get a job,” he says. “It was always part of my life and my girls grew up that way—and I’m proud that they have continued that tradition.”
After high school, Ed left New England and studied economics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
“My parents paid the tuition for myself and my five siblings at private colleges and I don’t know how they did it,” he says. “There is an old saying: ‘When much is given, much is expected.’ I have been very blessed in my life and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to help other people.”
Ed first discovered the shoreline as a holiday destination in the 1980s. As he and his family moved around the country, including stints in Kansas, southern California, Chicago, and Nashville, Ed and his daughters Erin and Meghan still found their way back to Madison every summer.
In 1996, Ed made a career switch from sales management to finance—and made a new permanent home in Madison.
“I was traveling 150 nights a year and I wanted to spend more time with my girls and watch them grow up. I changed to a job that was not 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and I coached my girls in sports. It was great,” he says.
In 1996, Ed joined the Jaycees and over the past two decades he has served in many roles including president from 2000 to 2001 and the volunteer chair of the group’s two big community fundraisers. While he handed over the volunteer reins of the Jaycees’ Triathlon in 2013, Ed continues to organize the community manpower at the Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving morning.
“The Jaycees was the first organization I really had fun with, and I’ve made some of my best friends there,” he says. “We need about 150 people to volunteer on the day of the Turkey Trot. There’s people all over the place, so I have to get them in the right spots to make it work.
“When my girls were young, they would ask why we didn’t visit our family on Thanksgiving and the answer was that it’s Turkey Trot day. Everyone came here to see us because we always spent Thanksgiving Day morning volunteering at the event,” he recalls. “Now my daughters do the race with my grandchildren, so that’s really fun.”
Today, Ed is the senior financial advisor and senior vice president-investments at Wells Fargo in Madison and his partner Johanna Berry owns Headhunters hair salon in Clinton.
“I think it’s true that you find people who are like you and that’s why it’s easy to find people to volunteer-because we are happy to help them,” he says. “It’s really cool.”
Vista Life Innovations presents the Tour de Shore Kickoff Party at Zane’s Cycles, 330 East Main Street, Branford on Thursday, June 28 at 6:30 p.m. The free event features food, drinks, raffle prizes, and music, kicking off preparations for the 10th annual Vista Tour de Shore on Sunday, Oct. 14. For more information and to volunteer at the event, call 860-339-8080 ext. 227 or visit www.vistalifeinnovations.org.