Sanctuary Ride: Going the Extra (500) Miles to End Gender Violence

An interview with the organizer of Sanctuary Ride, a 5 day, 500 miles ride from Manhattan to Niagara Falls that raises fund to help survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence.

Ashley Tsai and Nelson Lin are the organizers of Sanctuary Ride, a 500 mile bike ride from Central Park to Niagara Falls, the proceeds of which go to benefit our work to end domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender-based violence.

We sat down with Ashley to learn more about her passion for cycling and Sanctuary for Families.

How did you first become interested in long distance cycling for charity? 

Ashley & Nelson, organizers of Sanctuary Ride

Nelson has been a cycling enthusiast ever since he got bitten by the bug many years ago doing his first ever charity ride in Sydney, Australia. Nelson did not even have his own bike, and did the 51 mile course on a woman’s hybrid. He even had to borrow a friend’s helmet. He has been hooked ever since – to the self-discipline, the training leading up to the event, and the sense of achievement at enduring for a worthy cause. Nelson has participated in multi-day charity bike events in Australia, Europe, and US ever since.

I am not really a cyclist but I share Nelson’s passion for charity. So I started volunteering as a support crew for these events. It feels great to be part of these amazing rides together as husband-and-wife and we have made many life-long friends along the way.

How did you find Sanctuary?

We moved from Sydney to New York four years ago, and I started volunteering at Sanctuary for Families. It is a really special place. The work Sanctuary is doing for victims of gender violence really made an impression on me, and I was especially impressed by the Economic Empowerment Program. Through volunteering I met John Wyeth, Sanctuary’s Director of Institutional Giving, and found out that he is also a cyclist. I introduced Nelson to him and the two became riding buddies and often ride together on weekends.

How did you come up with the idea to organize Sanctuary Ride?  

The thought of doing something to help Sanctuary to raise awareness and break the cycle of gender violence had always been on our minds, and two years ago we thought it would be a good idea to combine our passions together and organize a charity bike ride for the cause. We spoke to a few like-minded friends, including John, and the Sanctuary Ride was born! We want the event to reflect the geographic base of Sanctuary – hence the route from New York City to Niagara Falls through the beautiful back roads of New York State.

What keeps you motivated during that long bike ride? 

It is a tough ride, 500 miles in 5 days, with an elevation gain of 23,000 feet.  However, in our mind, this is a small price to pay to support survivors of gender violence. I love that we are a group of like-minded people who believe in Sanctuary’s mission, and that we are not alone on this journey.

Last year we spoke to many people on the road about Sanctuary for Families, and were lucky enough to spread the words through NPR and Buffalo NBC news. It was an amazing five days even though we had to deal with a heat wave, leg cramps, bike issues, saddle sores, and scary descents going into Ithaca!


Sanctuary Ride 2018

Both Nelson and I are super excited about this year’s Sanctuary Ride.  We have eight wonderful riders and three support crew members from all backgrounds and different parts of the world, and we all share the same passion. I look forward to “rolling” nice and early on August 28th from Central Park, raising awareness of Sanctuary, and making unforgettable memories!

What is your favorite part of Sanctuary Ride?

It is the comradeship of a group of very different people coming together for one goal.  I love that most people who participate in the event (both last year and this year) have actually never ridden 500 miles back to back.  The riders have to train hard for not only the cause of raising awareness of gender violence, but also to achieve personal challenges.  You can’t help but feel great to be part of this journey.

It is always a very emotional moment to arrive at Niagara Falls at the end of the 5 days.  However scenery-wise my personal favorite is the 4th day where we ride along the beautiful Erie Canal.

Are you accepting new members?

Registration for the 2019 Sanctuary Ride has closed – the ride overlaps with the Labor Day long weekend therefore we have to book all our accommodation far in advance – but we are already thinking about next year. We’d love to welcome any interested riders to consider joining us in 2020!

Can cyclists participate in the event and not ride the full five days to Niagara Falls?

Friends asked this question a lot!  We are considering having options for 1 day ride from New York to Poughkeepsie, as well as 1 day from Pittsford to Niagara Falls for Sanctuary Ride 2020 onwards.  You are welcomed to come cheer us on and see us off at 5:30am on 8/28 though!

What advice would you have for someone who is interested in doing the ride?

Good spirit and positive energy is always a good place to start!  Train hard and stay safe on the saddle.  Nelson organizes group trainings on weekends leading up to the ride so the team get a sense of riding as a group and how to look out for each other.

How can interested cyclists contact you?

Please visit our Facebook page and leave us a message!  We would love to have you in next year’s event.  Let’s ride together to help end gender violence!

Sanctuary Welcomes Denis McInerney, Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, as New Board President

New Board Members Include Garrard Beeney, Partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, Hon. Katherine Forrest, Partner

New Board Members Include Garrard Beeney, Partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, Hon. Katherine Forrest, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Jessica Tuchinsky, Partner at Simpson Thacher

Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence, announced that Denis McInerney, a Litigation Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, has been elected President of its Board of Directors, effective this month.

Mr. McInerney first joined Sanctuary’s Board in 2005 and served until 2010 when he stepped down to work for the Department of Justice, first as the Chief of the Fraud Section (2010 to 2013) and then Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division (2013 to 2014). He re-joined Sanctuary’s Board in 2015. Having served on a variety of Sanctuary Board committees over the years, including Audit (Chair), Development (Co-Chair), Finance, Nominating and Program, he brings a wealth of experience in Sanctuary’s work, as well as a deep commitment to helping survivors of gender violence.

Denis McInerney, President of Sanctuary for Families’ Board of Directors, said, “As Sanctuary celebrates its 35th year of service, I am awed and inspired by the legacy of my predecessors – the leaders and volunteers who have dedicated themselves to furthering Sanctuary’s mission of building a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right. I am deeply honored to serve as its President and am excited to work with Sanctuary’s incredible staff and supporters now working on the frontlines of change.”

Three law firm partners have joined Sanctuary’s Board of Directors, effective this month:

Garrard Beeney, Partner at Sullivan & Cromwell. Mr. Beeney is co-head of the firm’s Intellectual Property and Technology Group and is regularly recognized as a leading lawyer for his counsel to clients on intellectual property and licensing transactions and litigation matters around the world.  He is a frequent speaker at IP, antitrust and legal forums and often contributes thought leadership pieces, particularly in the area of standard essential patents and world-wide licensing. He is the 2019 recipient of Sanctuary’s Law Firm Leadership Award.

Hon. Katherine Forrest, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Ms. Forrest was a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York and Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice before she rejoined Cravath in the firm’s Litigation Department. She is regarded as a leader in legal issues relating to technology, including the digital environment, high‑speed trading and content distribution.

Jessica Tuchinsky, Partner at Simpson Thacher. A member of the firm’s Banking and Credit Practice in New York, Ms. Tuchinsky represents leading financial institutions and investment banks with the arrangement and syndication of senior credit facilities, including acquisition, bridge and other corporate financings. She has significant experience in complicated financings in the leveraged finance, investment grade, and asset-based markets.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, said “On behalf of our organization and the thousands of survivors of gender-based violence that we assist each year, I thank our new Board President Denis McInerney for taking on this important leadership role and welcome new Board Members Garrard Beeney, Katherine Forrest and Jessica Tuchinsky. They are a formidable group. I look forward to their leadership, advocacy and counsel as we work together to help our clients find their way to fulfilling lives that are free from violence.”

Mr. McInerney takes over from William F. Gorin, Senior Counsel at Cleary Gottlieb, who served as President of Sanctuary’s Board of Directors since 2013. During Mr. Gorin’s tenure as Board President, he oversaw the search that resulted in new executive director Hon. Judy Harris Kluger; monitored Sanctuary’s growth from a $15.6 million to $26.2 million organization; and assisted in moving headquarters to a new lower Manhattan location. Mr. Gorin also led a strategic planning process which has resulted in the expansion of Sanctuary’s advocacy and outreach work; the growth of the Economic Empowerment Program and development of training alternatives to address the ever-changing challenges of poverty; increased survivor leadership; new legal programs for incarcerated survivors and survivors of campus sexual assault; and improved therapy treatments for children and families. Mr. Gorin will remain part of the Sanctuary family to co-chair the President’s Council with Stephanie Ferdman.

Judge Kluger said, “Sanctuary cannot grow and prosper without strong and dedicated board leadership. During Bill’s tenure, our programs expanded, and our organization thrived, allowing us to provide additional support to our neediest clients while also recognizing the hard work of our staff. He led our board with strength and commitment and was a passionate ambassador for Sanctuary to the wider public. We owe Bill an immense debt of gratitude for his extraordinary service.”

Photo: Sanctuary Executive Director, Hon. Judy H. Kluger, and Sanctuary Board President Denis McInerney

A Statement from Dorchen Leidholdt on the 7.23.19 Panel Discussion

Dorchen Leidholdt is the Director of Sanctuary’s Legal Center.  — I am not on Twitter

Dorchen Leidholdt is the Director of Sanctuary’s Legal Center. 

I am not on Twitter but understand from friends and colleagues who are that a number of accusations have been made against me over the last 24 hours. First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I had nothing to do with the police presence at last night’s panel discussion about the Gottfried/Salazar/Ramos bill to fully decriminalize the sex industry in New York.

Far from being a proponent of the carceral state, I began my legal career as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society. For six years I advocated zealously on behalf of hundreds of criminal defendants. Many had survived egregious gender violence only to be revictimized by the criminal justice system, often by being arrested for prostitution or loitering for purposes of prostitution.

My advocacy against such misuse of the criminal justice system continued when I joined Sanctuary for Families, where I represent defendants and incarcerated people and advocate for criminal justice reform. My work on behalf of an incarcerated woman who killed her abuser and was wrongfully convicted of his murder led to my co-founding the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivor Initiative, which I co-chair.

For decades I have advocated against the arrest and prosecution of people in the sex industry for prostitution and loitering for prostitution. I joined forces with the attorneys bringing the constitutional challenge against “loitering for prostitution,” and I helped lead Sanctuary’s efforts to pass the bill that would strike loitering from the NYS penal code. Sanctuary is currently advocating for two additional bills – one would amend New York’s rape shield law to protect people with prostitution convictions; the second would enable trafficking survivors to apply for vacatur relief for all criminal convictions.

Those who organized and spoke at last night’s event have significant common ground with those who protested it.

Effecting meaningful criminal justice reform requires ending the longstanding over-use and misuse of the criminal justice system while ensuring that those who have suffered racism, economic inequality, and gender-based discrimination and violence obtain the criminal justice protection they have long been denied. I hope that in the future we can unite to work to achieve these crucially important goals.

To Young Survivors of Domestic Violence, Summer Camp Brings Hope

This summer, Sanctuary will be leading the second Camp HOPE America: New York. Learn how this trauma-informed camp is helping young victims of domestic violence heal and find hope again.

Annika is a Development Intern at Sanctuary and a high school rising senior at Friends Seminary in New York City. She is passionate about politics and criminal justice and hopes to study government in college.

Summer camp is a place where children can disconnect from technology, be active, grow independent, develop their social skills, connect with nature, and make life long memories and friends. It offers young people an escape from their routines at home, and an outlet to have fun and express themselves freely. For some children, summer camp is the only place where they can truly be kids.

Children who are impacted by domestic violence often have no choice but to grow up quickly, missing essential childhood milestones that inform their development and personal growth. Domestic violence affects roughly 1 in 4 women in the United States; as a result, approximately 15.5 million children in the United States live in families where domestic violence has been perpetrated. Some children and adolescents have no choice but to take on parental roles in the household, act as guardians to younger siblings and take care of their abused parent. Others may turn to risky behavior, including drug use and gang affiliation, to cope with their stressful home environments. Either way, domestic violence robs kids and teens of their childhoods, leading to lifelong trauma and behavioral problems that often promote the continuation of the cycle of violence. Sleepaway camps offer young survivors of domestic violence the chance to be kids, removed from the potential stresses and dangers of their families’ living circumstances.


In 2018, Sanctuary partnered with Camp HOPE America to run the first session of Camp HOPE New York, a one week sleep away camp that affords children affected by domestic violence the opportunity to access crucial childhood experiences that they may have missed out on as a result of abuse. With its specialized trauma-informed approach and dedicated staff, Camp HOPE is designed to specifically meet the needs of each child who attends. At Camp HOPE, campers enjoy classic outdoor activities that help to build trust and confidence in themselves and their peers. Each session of Sanctuary’s Camp HOPE has approximately 36 campers and 14 counselors, yielding an impressive >3 to 1 camper to counselor ratio which ensures that every camper gets the personalized attention they may need. Camp HOPE America’s website states, “Hope reflects an individual’s capacity to develop pathways and dedicate agency toward desirable goals.” Using the ‘Children’s HOPE Scale’, Camp HOPE America has seen increased growth in its campers’ capacities for hope over the course of several summers.

Andrea Yeriazarian, Sanctuary’s Program Director for Children and Family Services, works closely with the staff at Camp HOPE to ensure that it is a positive experience for campers and counselors alike. When I spoke to Andrea about her experience at Camp HOPE New York last year, she described some of the activities that help campers get the most out of their time there: “Each day, our campers read a story about someone who went through a difficult childhood — which could have included violence, or war, or any number of things — and who were able to find support outside of their family and become a very successful adult. We would then gather around a campfire to discuss these stories and talk about how, despite what happened in the past or what we’re going through now, there is always be hope for a better future. The definition of HOPE that we use is ‘believing in yourself, believing in your dreams, and believing in others’, so those stories are meant to teach the campers that if you believe in yourself and reach out for support from others, that you can achieve your dreams”.

When I asked Andrea how counselors support campers who struggle with taking risks, she described a Camp HOPE motto, ‘challenge by choice’. She explained, “…for some kids who are afraid of water, their challenge by choice might just be putting on a bathing suit and standing on the shore.” Kids are not pressured into doing anything that makes them uncomfortable; rather, they are encouraged to set goals, to challenge themselves, and to overcome their fears.

As we were wrapping up our conversation, Andrea shared a success story from Sanctuary’s first session of Camp HOPE New York:

“A camper told us that trying out new things at Camp– things she had been worried about but that she did really well at – gave her the courage to try out for a school sports team for the first time. She now felt confident and ready to take on new challenges, because she knew she could do it.”

Childhood is a precious time that should be full of fun and excitement, not violence and trauma. All campers who attended Sanctuary’s Camp HOPE last summer had overwhelmingly positive experiences and those who are eligible look forward to returning this summer.  

If you would like to support Sanctuary for Families’ second Camp HOPE and our youngest clients, please click here.