Chip Milnor is a big man, in stature and in heart. Saturday afternoon, beneath the Last Mile Ride (LMR) tent in Gifford Park, friends, family and fellow bikers cheered him as he stood to be recognized as the event’s top fundraiser with $8,525, bringing the 13th annual Last Mile Ride fundraising total to $110,000 to support end-of-life care for central Vermonters—and the grand total to more than $760,000 since the inaugural LMR in 2006.
Milnor, who owns Chip’s Auto & Tire on Weston Street, was visibly overcome with emotion, as were many of the 154 bikers and their supporters who sat down to a barbecue lunch at Gifford after an 80-mile ride through Orange and Windsor counties. Many wiped away tears, embraced, and held hands while listening to remarks from event organizers. For them, it’s clear that Last Mile Ride is more than an excuse to get out on the open road, and as much as it’s a fundraiser, it’s about more than money.
“I think what encourages me is that I’ve lost some good friends up there, and getting to see what everyone puts into [Last Mile Ride],” said Milnor during a phone interview Monday, referring to the support LMR provides dying patients and their grieving families.
“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.”
That cause drew a record-breaking 415 participants to this year’s two-day Last Mile Ride event, which began Friday night with a 5K and 1- and 2.5-mile walks. Riders, walkers and runners wore Last Mile Ride T-shirts with the event’s signature orange color, while others had custom T-shirts printed in memory of family members and friends they had lost to cancer or other advanced illness. They were there for their loved ones.
“Thanks to you, in addition to supporting palliative care services, Last Mile Ride helps make ends meet for families, covering necessities such as estate planning and travel expenses, and also fulfills unique final wishes,” Gifford Development Director Ashley Lincoln told the crowd in her remarks Saturday. “Our team members have served as wedding planners, travel agents, spa managers and in other unexpected roles, and we’ve loved every minute of it. We mean it when we say, ‘we care for you, for life,’ and Last Mile Ride is an extension of that promise.”
The weekend was not only a celebration in memory of lost loved ones, but also of new beginnings—bikers Bobbi and Tom Young, there on their honeymoon, were presented with a wedding cake—and of old friends coming together and sharing a fair amount of ribbing. “This year, we have two chase vehicles,” David “Gunner” Eckert of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association told the assembled bikers before hitting the road. “That’s for the non-Harleys that break down.”
And, of course, Saturday provided a good opportunity to show off polished chrome, such as on Milnor’s custom candy-apple red 2012 Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
“It’s pretty impressive,” he said.
By the Numbers
Joining Milnor among the top motorcycle fundraisers announced Saturday were Todd Winslow with $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 dismal weather forecast, participation in the 5K and walks was up 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 minutes 11.6 seconds, and Jessica Benedict (overall female) with a time of 22 minutes 59.4 seconds. Full race results are available at 802timing.com/results/18results/18results.html.
In addition to the scheduled Last Mile Ride events, funds were raised through raffles for a motorcycle from Wilkins Harley-Davidson in South Barre and a quilt made by Gifford nurses. Katie Vinton won the motorcycle raffle, and Dr. Mark Jewett took home the quilt, handmade by Dawn DeCoff and Betsy Hannah in memory of Gifford friend and colleague Fred Staples.
Fifty-three local businesses supported the 2018 Last Mile Ride, including the following major sponsors: Frankenburg Agency, Kinney Pike/MEMIC, Lucky’s Lease/Trailer Sales, Mascoma Savings Bank, Neagley & Chase Construction, New England Air Systems, Northfield Savings Bank, VTDigger, Rural Vermont Real Estate, and Wilkins Harley-Davidson. To ensure safety along the motorcycle route, riders, led out of town by Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, were escorted by Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association volunteers with the help of local police departments.
# # #