Riding into "Retirement"

Jim Clarahan, Retired partner

RSM alumni Culture

Jim Clarahan, a recently retired RSM partner from Peoria, Illinois, knows about being a caring, curious, courageous, collaborative and critical thinker. As former national leader of RSM's Global Compliance and Reporting Services (GCRS) program and national leader of our United Kingdom country practice, he and his teams embraced the firm's 5 C's daily in their interactions with clients and one another.

Jim Clarahan - retired RSM partner

Jim also embraced the 5 C's in his personal life. Four and a half years ago, his grandson, Dray, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor right at the outset of COVID-19. As a leader with a reputation for getting things done and as a hands-on grandparent, Jim needed to help. As the adage goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention," and after much thought, Jim tapped into his passion for motorcycle riding; Ride 4 Dray, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was born.

In 2020, with the full support of RSM's senior leadership team as well as the RSM US Foundation, Jim took 60 days to ride across the Eastern half of the U.S. on his Harley-Davidson, visiting sixty offices, as well as eleven children's hospitals, along the way, while raising awareness of childhood brain cancer and funds for related research and treatments.

Fast forward to 2023, Jim recently retired following more than 42 years with RSM, but he continues to "Ride 4 Dray." In fact, Jim recently completed a ride across Europe after getting support and encouragement from RSM leaders there. Jim used the skills he learned and fine-tuned at RSM to create specific goals for the ride: (1) bring his kids' cancer awareness-building program to Europe, (2) leverage relationships within RSM to bring RSM Europe members together for a common cause and (3) influence children's cancer organizations to collaborate and share information and resources related to childhood cancer across Europe.

The challenges with this ride were different, given varying country regulations and cultures. Jim rode over 13,000 miles in 120 days, covering 35 countries, stopping by 44 RSM offices and more than 20 children's cancer hospitals and charities along the way—again, raising awareness and funds (more than $75,000) for childhood cancer research.

The experience was exciting, challenging and sometimes scary, according to Jim. Just a few of the highlights included:

  • RSM Ireland’s hosting in Jim's honor a live evening fundraiser at Café en Seine, a cool Dublin city center bar, with more than 200 participants and raising over $25,000
  • Almost getting run over by a bus in Madrid and nearly colliding with a herd of cows lingering in the middle of the road in Albania
  • Participating in a Ride 4 Dray balloon release at Koc University Hospital, Istanbul, to recognize our common cause
  • Meeting oncology teams and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the journey
  • Being invited to the bridge by the captain of the Greece to Turkey ferry ship and helping pilot the ship out of the Pireaus port
  • Celebrating the Fourth of July with the pediatric oncology team in Istanbul
  • Seeing the emotional reactions of our RSM colleagues involved in various events and watching them demonstrate their obvious care for their communities
  • Meeting kids affected by cancer—passing out Ride 4 Dray coins and St. Jude angel pins while listening to their stories and learning about their hopes and dreams.

As for Dray—he's a happy, healthy-looking five-year-old soccer-playing kindergartner. His brain tumor, after reducing in size initially, is still there. Unfortunately, it is showing signs of new growth, and following a chemo-free summer, he will resume treatment sometime in October. In the meantime, he'll connect via Zoom with Atlas, a six-year-old patient Jim met in Turkey who drew a picture of Dray on Jim's bike. The RSM Turkey team had the picture framed and sent to Dray before Jim returned from Europe, sparking a new friendship and demonstrating our care for one another, regardless of our location.

And there's no rest for the weary: less than two weeks after returning home, Jim participated in "St. Jude Rides," a unique and special Peoria to St. Jude, Memphis motorcycle ride, where police escorted 325 bikers along the 520-mile stretch, concluding with a ride through campus, and a big celebration with a donation of $1.2 million.

If you'd like to learn more about Ride 4 Dray and how to help eliminate childhood cancer, visit the ride4dray website or connect with Jim on LinkedIn.

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