Sixth Annual Leadership And Innovation Event Rock The Road Experience Raises $1 Million For Cancer Research

Leadership and innovation experts share insights to bring change in both industry and communities.

COLUMBUS, OH. August 24, 2017 – Rockbridge hosted the sixth-annual leadership and innovation event, Rock the Road Experience (RTRX) held August 3-6, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. RTRX united business leaders through the triple bottom line theme of business, inspiration and purpose. The event began with speakers who challenged attendees to think differently, to innovate and to make a difference; it concluded with donors and fundraisers participating in Pelotonia, the nation’s largest cycling fundraiser to support cancer research.

As the result of this year’s event proceeds, sponsorship, and team fundraising, Rockbridge CEO and RTRX founder Jim Merkel presented a donation of $1,000,000 (one-million dollars) for cancer research – their largest ever in the six years of RTRX. “Our families, friends and colleagues are all affected by cancer. We started RTRX because we refuse to stand by and do nothing,” said Merkel. “Each and every year, Rockbridge builds on its vision for RTRX, continuing to work side by side with innovative leaders toward our vision of living in a cancer free world.”

This year’s event delivered a powerful day of storytelling, networking opportunities and exposure to new ideas. Bill Walton, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member and author, asked attendees to visualize themselves as a human forklift. He explained “What does a forklift do?…It picks people up and puts them in a better place.” Walton engaged the audience as he related the obstacles he faced throughout his career and how he learned what leadership and innovation takes in terms of collaboration and perseverance.

Dan Pallotta, author, nonprofit change-agent and owner of Advertising for Humanity, was also a keynote speaker and confronted the fear of innovation, “bigger is better, and innovation requires risk.” He shared from his experiences over the past nine years on behalf of cancer, AIDS and breast cancer research on what innovation takes and how progress is hampered. He stated, “People are tired of being asked to do the least they can possibly do on behalf of the cause that affects them profoundly and deeply.”

This year’s event also featured a panel of leaders from the Smart Columbus initiative. The City of Columbus competed against 77 cities nationwide to win the Smart City Challenge in 2016. With a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Smart Columbus initiative was formed with the purpose of improving people’s quality of life, driving growth in the economy, providing better access to jobs and ladders of opportunity, and becoming a world-class logistics leader. The panel included:

  • Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership
  • Mark Patton, VP of Smart Columbus
  • Carla Bailo, AVP, Mobility Research at The Ohio State University

In opening the discussion Alex Fisher said, “far too often, innovation gets confused with technology …innovation to the thought process can be the most important innovation there can be in business.”

During the event attendees learned more about the progress in both fundraising and cancer research from Doug Ulman, Pelotonia CEO, and Dr. Michael Caligiuri, Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital and Solve Research Institute CEO. Both Ulman and Caligiuri have spoken frequently at RTRX in the past.

Many RTRX attendees rode in Pelotonia as part of Team Rockbridge. Rockbridge provided a high-end road bike, team jersey, and helmet for those wanting to fundraise for and take part in the cycling event. Team Rockbridge had a record, combined Peloton of 222 members this year with 164 riders, 43 virtual riders, and 15 volunteers.
Hospitality industry executives continue to commit to RTRX and Pelotonia, because they share Rockbridge’s passion and one goal: end cancer. RTRX is an inspirational example to show companies that dedication, spirit, and ingenuity can make a major difference in the community.

Lead sponsors for RTRX 2017 included: Aimbridge Hospitality, Davidson Hotels & Resorts, Rockbridge, RBHD, Marriott, Hodges Ward Elliott, Hospitality Ventures Management Group, IDC Construction, JLL, International, Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP and S.R. Sams Construction
RTRX fundraising continues through October 6, 2017. To make a donation, please visit

About Rockbridge:

Rockbridge is an investment firm with nearly two decades of experience investing in real estate and operating companies. It has made more than 200 hotel investments in 38 states in transactions worth more than $5 billion. Through its deep in-house experience and strong foundation of industry relationships, Rockbridge has delivered a track record of high absolute returns across multiple cycles and is a leading investor in hospitality. Rockbridge is ranked as the ninth largest owner/operator of hotels in the nation by Hotel Business Magazine.
For more information, visit

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