Gifford’s Last Mile Ride Raises $104 K for End-of-Life Care

Two-day event exceeds 10th anniversary fundraising goal

Last Mile Ride 2015

Vermont Combat Veteran road guard leader and top LMR fundraiser Reg Mongeur, ride leader Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, and LMR co-founder and former road guard leader Charlie Amico.

More than 385 Last Mile Ride participants joined together to raise $104,000 to support Gifford Medical Center’s end-of-life services on Friday and Saturday, exceeding the event’s ambitious 2015 goal of $100,000.

“The enthusiasm, spirit, and selfless efforts of all of you—volunteers, staff, participants, donors, and Combat Vet road guards who keep our event safe—have helped us to raise more than $300,000 over the years for end-of-life services,” Gifford’s Director of Development Ashley Lincoln told the crowd as she announced this year’s record-breaking figure. “Thanks to you we’ve exceeded our $100,000 goal allowing us to provide comfort and support to families when they are feeling most vulnerable.”

Lincoln went on to share that there will be a second garden room suite created during the hospital’s current renovations.

Started in 2006 with just 74 motorcyclists, the Last Mile Ride has grown into two days of fundraising activities that include a timed 5K, a one-mile walk, a 35-mile bicycle ride, and an 87-mile motorcycle ride. Last Mile Ride funds bring patients alternative therapies like Reiki, massage, and music therapy to help with pain management. They also provide unique services to support family members: providing meals for those spending last moments with loved ones in the hospital’s Garden Room, helping with transportation costs for far-away family, or arranging for photographs or a patient’s special last wish.

Last Mile Ride 2015Humidity was high and temperatures were in the 80’s for both evening and day events, but participants remained spirited and energetic. Some came to honor a friend or loved one, many came to “give back” for a Garden Room or special end-of-life experience, wanting to make sure others will have the same support and comfort during “life’s last mile.”

Firefighters Nick Benson and Ryan Kennedy braved the heat in full gear to honor Benson’s mother Roxanne Benson (a long-time LMR supporter who died last May) and Kennedy’s father-in-law Jimmy Boulter (who died in the garden room in 2011). Kennedy is a member of the Chelsea Fire Department. Benson grew up in Chelsea but now works for the Barre Fire Department. Benson explained their outfits: “My mom was big into getting me into fire services. She was a first responder with First Branch Ambulance and also a big supporter of Last Mile ride. I’m not mature enough to own a motorcycle,” Benson joked, “but I’m confident I can walk in this gear. I think we’re going to make this a tradition!”

After the race Friday evening, rain showers helped to cool the 179 hot runners and walkers as they gathered for prizes awarded to top fundraisers: Lindsay Haupt (5K) and Louise Clark (walk) received a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Stateline Sports sneaker voucher. Chris Gish was the top male 5K finisher and Sara Lewis was the top female 5K finisher. Total race results are listed at

On Saturday, heavy rain held off until after the famous outdoor barbeque lunch, where 206 bicyclists and motorcyclists sat at long tables to share stories, welcome newcomers to the Last Mile Ride community, and receive raffle, door, and fundraising prizes.

Lincoln honored Randolph volunteer Reg Mongeur. A Vermont Combat Veteran’s road guard for all ten years of the event, he took over organizing the guards when co-founder Charlie Amico stepped down. Mongeur came to the event after several of his relatives died in the Garden Room, and soon became a top fundraiser, often sitting at a table in front of Shaw’s to spread the word about Last Mile Ride services and solicit donations.

Last Mile Ride 2015“Reg has done phenomenal work for Last Mile Ride,” Lincoln said. “He served his country in Viet Nam, came home, worked hard, raised a family, and now works hard serving our community.” Poking fun at Mongeur, Lincoln shared that he is well-known as he “hounds us on Facebook and Shaw’s” raising awareness and support for the event. “Reg will be turning his motorcycle keys in, but thankfully remains committed to our event.”

Last Mile Ride Raffle prize winners were:

• Annette Sargent of Roxbury, who won the Harley-Davidson donated by Wilkins Harley-Davidson in South Barre

• Dr. Josh Plavin of Randolph, who won the bicycle donated by Green Mountain Bicycle Express in Northfield

• Wendy Wells of Randolph Center, who won the quilt made by Gifford nursing staff

• Ronald Warner of Randolph, who won the toolbox donated by Randolph Auto Supply

Ten riders raised over $1,000, with the top fundraisers being Reg Mongeur, Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin, Chip Milnor, and Todd Winslow. Top fundraiser prizes were: four tickets to NH Speedway, four tickets to The Great Escape, a Gondola Ride and lunch at Stowe Mountain Resort, and the Local Prize Package (two tickets to the New World Festival, one-night stay at the Three Stallion Inn, and a gift certificate to Saap Restaurant).

Generous business support played a huge role in the event’s success. Forty-six businesses sponsored this year’s event, with major sponsors including Be Good Sports, The Frankenburg Agency, Froggy 100.9, Gillespie Fuels and Propane, HP Cummings, Lucky’s Trailer Sales, Mascoma Savings Bank, Northfield Savings Bank, and Wilkins Harley-Davidson.

As the rumble of the bikes rang through the towns, riders enjoyed support along the route from cheering community members, including local fire departments and the White River Valley Ambulance. Rider safety was ensured by volunteers from the Green Mountain Bike Patrol, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and ride leader Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak.

Read More about Gifford’s Last Mile ride on Gifford’s website at The 2016 Last Mile Ride will be Friday August 19, and Saturday August 20.

Last Mile Ride Raises $60,000

Last Mile Ride

Runners take off for the Last Mile Ride 5K and walk on Friday at Gifford in Randolph. (Provided/Janet Miller)

Fueled by compassion, 154 runners and walkers, 201 motorcyclists and 38 cyclists gathered at Gifford Medical Center on Friday and Saturday for the Last Mile Ride, raising $60,000 for area residents in life’s last mile.

Now in its ninth year, the Last Mile Ride has grown to a two-day event that includes a timed 5K, one-mile walk, 38-mile cycle ride and 80-mile motorcycle ride. The annual event raises money for Gifford patients in and out of the hospital who are in advanced illness or at the end of life. Money raised at the ride goes directly to help patients with comfort measures, provides financial support to patients and families, and grants special wishes.

Last Mile Ride

Cyclists leave for the Last Mile Ride on Saturday. (Provided/Janet Miller)

This year marked both a record number of participants – 386 in total – and a record amount of money raised. It was also an event fraught with emotional highs and lows.

The event included a Harley-Davidson raffle. Cody Flanagan, 19, from Barre won the bike from Wilkins Harley-Davidson, but wasn’t there to receive it. He is in Afghanistan.

His father, Tim Flanagan, a respiratory therapist at Gifford, who bought two tickets in Cody’s name accepted on his behalf. The older Flanagan got out that his son was in Afghanistan before breaking down. He received a standing ovation.

Last Mile Ride

Motorcyclists wind their way through central Vermont as part of the Last Mile Ride on Saturday. (Provided/Alison White)

“I was just ecstatic and overwhelmed for Cody,” Tim Flanagan said Monday. “I just felt it was a storybook kind of finish. It was meant to be.”

Cody, a medic airborne ranger, who graduated from Spaulding High School a year early, joined the U.S. Army two years ago at age 17. He has been in Afghanistan a month. His battalion just lost a member on Aug. 12 and has been on an emotional low.

Tim Flanagan called his son in Afghanistan from the ride to tell him he had won. It was around midnight there and he was exhausted, but excited. “He’s quite ecstatic. He’s thrilled,” said his father, noting it has been a morale booster for the unit.

The moment was reminiscent of the cause, which uplifts families in difficult situations.

Last Mile Ride

Margaret Gish of Sharon races back toward Gifford in the fastest among a female at 20:49.7. (Provided/Janet Miller)

Robin Morgan spoke at the 5K and walk on Friday evening. She lost her step-father Michael Durkee to an aggressive cancer in May 2013. He spent his last days in the Garden Room – Gifford’s garden-side end-of-life care suite.

“Being in the Garden Room, we all got to be together. They were so supportive of us,” Morgan said. “They gave us food, (and) everything you can possibly imagine.”

Morgan and her family walked in the Last Mile last year and again this year. Morgan pushed her two young children in a double-stroller. “It (the Last Mile Ride) is a big part of my life now,” she said, before rushing to embrace her mom and Michael Durkee’s widow, Joan Durkee.

Last Mile Ride

Last Mile walkers return to Gifford Friday evening. (Provided/Janet Miller)

Palliative care nurse John Young on Saturday at the motorcycle and cycle ride spoke of the privilege of working at a hospital that supports palliative care and how lucky the hospital is to have the community’s support.

Physician assistant Starr Strong remembered her friend Judy Alexander who was “an incredible nurse, wonderful friend and mother.” A “Harley chick” and past participant of the Last Mile Ride, Alexander died in April of cancer.

Her family received assistance from the Last Mile Ride fund.

Last Mile Ride

Philip Tenney of Northfield walks over the finish line of the Last Mile Ride 5K. He came in last (1:00:14.0) but was first in many participants’ eyes. Three weeks earlier he had a lifesaving kidney transplant. (Provided/Alison White)

“It made her passing much richer because of the support from the Last Mile Ride,” Strong said, encouraging those present to recognize both the importance of their contribution “because you never know when it’s your turn” and to “celebrate life.”

The event also included the raffle of a bicycle from Green Mountain Bikes in Rochester. Richard Polarek, 88, from Brookfield won the bicycle. And a queen-size quilt made by Gifford nursing staff was won by motorcyclist Cherry Lloyd of Randolph.

Prizes were also given out for the events top fund-raisers and the top 5K finishers.

The fastest male finishers were Christopher Gish of Sharon (16:37.9), David Mattern of Tunbridge (18:47.6) and Zachery McDermott of Randolph (20:26.0). The fastest female finishers were Margaret Gish of Sharon (20:49.7), Becky Olmstead of Bethel (23:58:4) and Stacy Pelletier of Braintree (24:11.7). See a full list of race results online at

Last Mile Ride

Smiling motorcyclist

The top 5K fund-raiser was Kyla Grace of Randolph and the top walk fund-raiser was Penny Maxfield of East Roxbury. The top cyclist fund-raiser was Cory Gould of Worcester. And the top motorcycle fund-raisers were Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin of Northfield who collectively raised $4,000 for the cause and Reg Mongeur of Randolph who raised more than $3,500.

Mongeur spent many evenings at Shaw’s in Randolph collecting for the cause.

“I have the time and the desire,” said Mongeur of why he made the effort. “I’ve lost quite a few family members in the Garden Room and quite a few vets went through there.

“It’s just my way of giving back to the community,” said Mongeur, who also coordinated road guard efforts for the ride as a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 26-2.

Last Mile Ride

Runners, from front, Richard Kozlowski, Stacy Pelletier and Becky Olmstead race along Route 12 toward Beanville Road. (Provided/Alison White)

This year’s ride, he said, was “beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.” Riders returning it called it “the best.”

As top fund-raisers, Chugkowski and Martin won four Red Sox tickets and VIP tour of Fenway thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox and Froggy 100.9. Mongeur won four tickets to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to see the Sylvania 300 thanks to the generosity of the Loudon, N.H., organization.

Many other prizes were given out, thanks to the generosity of local and regional businesses. The event also received record sponsorship support, including from major sponsors The Frankenburg Agency, Froggy 100.9, Lucky’s Trailer Sales, Northfield Savings Bank and Wilkins Harley-Davidson.

The 10th annual Last Mile Ride will be Aug. 14 and 15, 2015.