A record-breaking 415 runners, walkers, and motorcyclists from across the region convened in support of palliative care services at Gifford Medical Center during the 13th annual Last Mile Ride ride event earlier this month.
According to a press release from Gifford Medical Center, the event raised approximately $110,000.
These funds have gone to support caregiving services in the past, including support for palliative patient care and family-oriented support during extended hospital stays. At Gifford, the funds generated from the ride may be allocated to provide for pain management, including massage, acupuncture, and reiki therapy. Grant funding may also be available to cover unaffordable expenses relating to family travel for visitation, estate planning, spiritual guidance, and other legacy family wishes.
Months in Development
Ashley Lincoln, the director of development, marketing and public relations at Gifford, worked to help plan and coordinate the event for the past number of months.
In a follow-up phone interview with The Herald last Tuesday, Lincoln said she was overwhelmed by the volunteer support hospital officials saw this year.
She said that many of the medical staff turned out to show their support and pitch in during both days of the event.
Lincoln said that many local loved ones who have utilized Gifford’s services in the past showed up this year to support the event in one capacity or another.
“I am incredibly fortunate to work with a very talented team in my office. Every part of the event is done out of this office, and now the work begins with entering all of the gifts,” she said.
Lincoln said that she begins the process by sending personalized, handwritten thank you notes to every donor who participates or donates to this event.
“I was humbled; it’s incredibly emotional when I enter the gifts over the course of the two days,” she said.
“I will tell you that I always get goose bumps, and I always get very choked up,” said Lincoln.
Lincoln said that she thought this event, and fundraising for the associated programs, was the best part of her job. She said she was especially grateful to everyone who participates, volunteers, and donates every year.
“This year, the event was very different for me, because last fall I lost my grandmother,” said Lincoln.
She said that the experience had changed her understanding of the value of the services that Last Mile Ride is able to provide for area residents and their families.
She said the tables were turned on her last year since she was no longer the one offering support, she was the one receiving it at that juncture.
“So I now have first-hand experience with that very personalized compassionate care that our nurses and providers extend to all of our patients,” said Lincoln.
Lincoln said that people often travel from as far away as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York state, and this year came in from as far afield as South Carolina, to participate in the event.
“There’s a lot of people who come who do not use Gifford, who aren’t even from this area, and they come because they believe in the cause,” she said.
The Big Event
On Saturday morning, Aug. 18, the Gifford parking lot roared with an enthusiastic tenor created by motorcycles from across the region, arrayed in many shapes and sizes, all idling in harmony.
During the course of the weekend’s events, many riders, walkers and runners wore custom-designed T-shirts created in memory of family members and friends they had lost in the past to advanced illnesses, while others wore T-shirts with the event’s signature orange color.
As clouds parted from the previous night’s rain, 154 bikers prepared to make the 80-mile loop through Orange and Windsor Counties, culminating in a barbecue lunch tribute back at Gifford.
Gail Osha of Randolph Center, who rode in the event for her ninth year, this time with her grandson, Joey LaPalia, from New York state, said she was most touched by everyone’s contributions to the fundraiser’s cause.
“It’s always nice to take a rider, because it’s fun and it makes more of a contribution,” she said.
“I think many of us have experienced being in the Garden Room, losing a loved one,” said Osha, adding, “mwy mother passed away there, and other friends.”
“All the excitement of the ride, and the camaraderie of seeing people that you know, and meeting new people—it was very special,” Osha said.
“The smiles, and meeting people, and greeting people, it is fun to ride with that many bikes,” she said.
“I think it’s great karma, and that’s why the rain cleared off,” said Osha.
A Gift with Intent
On Saturday afternoon, Chip Milnor was cheered on under the Last Mile Ride tent in Gifford Park, where all manner of friends and family witnessed recognizing Milnor as the event’s top fundraiser. Having circuited the course on a custom, candy-apple-red Harley- Davidson Street Glide, he raised $8,525 in total.
Milnor, who owns Chip’s Auto & Tire on Weston Street, was visibly overcome with emotion during the tribute. Many in attendance wiped away tears, embraced, and held hands while listening to remarks from all those who had contributed to the event.
Milnor recognized all that had come to pass in making the event a reality during a phone interview.
“I think what encourages me is that I’ve lost some good friends up there,” he said, in reference to Gifford’s Garden Room.
“I’ve always said, everyone congratulates me, but it’s really about the good people who give,” he said, “I’m just the collector. I do it because of the cause.”
Strength in Numbers
Joining Milnor among the top motorcycle fundraisers announced on Saturday were Todd Winslow, who raised $2,175; Elizabeth Longworth with $1,945; John Holmer with $1,295; and Michael Whitaker with $1,230.
The top overall fundraiser for the Friday events was Emma Korrow with $2,512. Tina Grant was the top walk fundraiser with $2,030, and Carrie Baker was the top 5K fundraiser with $1,210.
Despite a difficult weather forecast, participation in the 5K run and walking events was on the rise over last year.
Friday night saw 71 runners in the 5K, up from 62 in 2017, and 190 walkers, up from 160 in 2017. Top 5K finishers were David Mattern (overall male) with a time of 19:11:06; and Jessica Benedict (overall female) with a time of 22:59:04.
Full race results may be found at tinyurl.com/ydbegjdl, currently listed under August on the 802 Timing website. Data for the motorcycle portion of the ride was not provided in the press release.
-- MARYELLEN APELQUIST and SETH BUTLER