RANDOLPH, Vt.—The 14th annual Last Mile Ride drew record crowds to the Gifford Green last weekend with 497 community members walking, running, or riding to support end-of-life care and special services for central Vermont patients and families. The event, which included a 5K and family-friendly walk Friday evening and a motorcycle ride Saturday, raised more than $120,000, bringing the grand total to more than $880,000 raised since the inaugural LMR in 2006.
It was an emotional two days, as many in attendance participated in honor of deceased loved ones or family and friends experiencing advanced illness. Among them was Eaton Snow of Brookfield, a longtime rider who took part in Saturday’s opening ceremony from his hospital bed, which had been wheeled outside by family and Gifford providers. Unable to ride this year, Snow wished friends a safe journey.
“Eaton was a farmer turned milk truck driver whose quiet nature includes always having a twinkle in his eyes,” said Randolph resident Paul Donohue, who captured the moment in photos he shared on Facebook. “[It was] as poignant and emotional scene as I’ve witnessed in some time, full of love, dignity and deep respect. This is why they ride.”
Participants and volunteers wore T-shirts in the event’s signature orange and black, while others had custom team T-shirts printed in memory of family members and friends they had lost.
“Over the years we’ve become more than friends, we’ve become family,” Gifford Development Director Ashley Lincoln told the crowd during a barbecue lunch after Saturday’s ride. “Together, we are a powerful force for good in a world that can sometimes be disheartening.”
“Throughout the year I hear from folks who share with me how your generosity has helped them or a member of their family meet their unique needs during advanced illness or at the end of life,” said Lincoln, describing the many ways LMR funds are used, including to cover costs associated with estate planning and funeral services, special events like weddings, transportation for visiting family members or for patients who require appointments with specialists outside of the region, and more.
In addition to honoring loved ones, the weekend was a celebration of community. Festivities included live music Friday with Larry Brassard and the Bear Mountain Jammers, a photo booth/selfie station for kids of all ages, cornhole on the green, and food prepared by Gifford chefs and volunteers. During Saturday’s barbecue lunch, a few hundred people sang “Happy Birthday” as longtime rider and top fundraiser Chip Milnor of Randolph was presented with a cake.
Among Saturday’s top ride fundraisers were Milnor with $11,990; Elizabeth Longworth with $2,985; Michael Whitaker with $2,110; Todd Winslow with $1,900; and John Holmes with $1,575.
The top overall fundraiser for the Friday events was walker Tina Grant with $5,555. The top 5K fundraiser was Emma Korrow with $3,025.
Participation in the 5K and walk was up over last year. Friday night saw 89 runners in the 5K, up from 71 in 2018, and 255 walkers, up from 190 in 2018. Top 5K finishers were David Mattern of Randolph (overall male) with a time of 19 minutes 54 seconds and Luci Tarr of South Royalton (overall female) with a time of 23 minutes 13.2 seconds. Full race results are available at 802timing.com/results/19results/runresults/8.16.19overalllastmile.htm.
Lenny “Cooch” Canture of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association provided safety tips before the 115 bikers and 38 additional riders hit the road Saturday. To further ensure safety, Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak led the riders out of town, and, with the help of local police, veterans provided escort along the route. Together they covered 75 miles through Randolph, Bethel, Royalton, Tunbridge, Chelsea, Barre, Williamstown, Brookfield, and Randolph Center.
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 nurse Dawn DeCoff. John Holmes won the motorcycle raffle, and Patsy French took home the quilt.
Fifty-four businesses supported the 2019 Last Mile Ride with $60,440, including the following major sponsors: Wilkins Harley-Davidson, Northfield Savings Bank, Frankenburg Agency, Inc., Neagley & Chase Construction Company, Gary & Mary West Foundation, The Kleeman Family Fund, Mascoma Savings Bank, FROGGY 100.9, Kinney Pike, MEMIC, Acadia Benefits, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, BKD, Booth Brothers, Consolidated Communications, Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary, Rain or Shine Tent Company, and Rural VT Real Estate.
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Gifford is a community hospital in Randolph, Vt., with family health centers in Berlin, Bethel, Chelsea, Randolph, Rochester, and White River Junction; and specialty services throughout central Vermont. A Federally Qualified Health Center and a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the country, Gifford is a full-service hospital with a 24-hour emergency department and inpatient unit; many surgical services; a day care; two adult day programs; and the 30-bed Menig Nursing Home, which was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best 39 nursing homes in the country in 2012. The Birthing Center, established in 1977, was the first in Vermont to offer an alternative to traditional hospital-based deliveries, and continues to be a leader in midwifery and family-centered care. The hospital’s mission is to improve individuals’ and community health by providing and assuring access to affordable, high-quality health care in Gifford’s service area.