‘Great’ ride supports ‘special’ cause: the Garden Room and end-of-life care
RANDOLPH – With blue skis overhead and temperatures in the 70s, 225 motorcyclists, 60 runners and 20 cyclists rolled into Gifford Medical Center Saturday for the seventh annual Last Mile Ride, together raising an estimated $54,000 for end-of-life care at the non-profit Randolph hospital.
It was the hospital’s most successful ride to date, attracting more participants than ever before, offering a 5K for the first time and raising the most in the ride’s already impressive history.
The event supports end-of-life and advanced illness care for Gifford patients.
Gifford provides special care in a garden-side suite, the Garden Room, for patients at the end of life and to their grieving families. The ride was created by Gifford motorcycle rider and nurse Lynda McDermott to support the Garden Room and comfort services, such as massages for pain management; family photos by a local professional; music therapy; one-time gifts for special needs, such as a handicapped ramp at home or special wish; care packages; food for families staying with their loved ones in the Garden Room; bereavement mailers; help with Advance Directives; staff training; and more.
To a mostly leather-clad crowd standing before the reflective chrome of 162 motorcycles, hospital administrator Joe Woodin offered his thanks to the participants.
“Thank you for coming today. This is a great event,” Woodin said. “It’s been really lovely to have so much support and people’s involvement. Over the years we’ve had a lot of people take up the cause in memory of a friend who perhaps passed away or a loved one and it’s really nice for people to say ‘The experience we went through we’d love to help those in the future.’”
Dr. Cristine Maloney, an internal medicine and palliative care physician who participated in both the 5K and cyclist portion of Saturday’s ride, shared stories of patients who have benefited from the ride funds over the last year. “None of this is possible without your time and your commitment and your fund-raising. These improvements in symptoms as well as the time and space to let families let go more comfortably are because of you.
“We appreciate your commitment to providing comfort at the end of life whether at the hospital or at home or in the nursing home here.”
Many spurred by their experiences in the Garden Room, nine participants raised more than $1,000 each for the cause. The top fundraising honor and associated prize – a Porter Music Box – went to Todd Winslow and Lu Beaudry of Wilder who alone raised $5,325 in memory of Winslow’s mother Joyce, who passed away in November in the Garden Room at age 82.
“When my mom went into the Garden Room … I decided that day – and I didn’t tell anyone – that I would figure out a way to raise money for it,” said Winslow, who later used e-mail to reach out to friends, family and business contacts. He wrote about the Garden Room and asked for help raising money in his mother’s name. “And I got an unbelievable response from all of them.”
“The Garden Room,” said Winslow, “you don’t know what it is like until you experience it. It is the neatest thing there is. Gifford has something, or the town has something, that most towns and hospitals don’t have. It’s really special.”
Winslow set a goal to raise $2,000, met it, raised it to $3,000, met that and continued on to $4,000 and then $5,000 goals, exceeding each.
“I really think it was because of my mom,” said Winslow of how he was able to raise so much. “One guy said ‘How can you not say ‘yes?’
“It was kind of neat to do it in tribute to my mom because my mom was really a neat person. She never had an ego. She was one of those people who wanted to help everyone and listen to them. So I wanted her to be recognized at that ride.”
Thanks to her son’s efforts, she was.
Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin of Northfield earned the second place prize, raising a remarkable $3,134. Chugkowski and Martin are long-time friends who participate each year in memory of several loved ones, including Martin’s dad, Robert Martin II, and this year former Northfield Saving Bank president Les Seaver.
“It’s a great ride for a great organization. We participate to ride and remember the loved ones that we’ve lost,” said Chugkowski, who works at Northfield Savings Bank and also serves on Gifford’s Board of Trustees.
Chip and Marie Milnor, who launched their fund-raising efforts on the Tuesday before the ride, collected $2,879 in just days in honor of their friend and Braintree neighbor John Rose Sr., who was in Gifford’s Garden Room as the ride was taking place.
“I wanted to do something for the family. What do you do? And it hit me: I’m going to do something for the Last Mile Ride,” said Chip Milnor, who set a goal of $3,000 and reached it on the Monday after the ride as money was still coming in.
“People thought the world of John,” said Milnor, who lost his friend late Sunday afternoon. “Our neighborhood is definitely not going to be the same without him.”
For Milnor, the ride was about recognizing his friend and others the Garden Room will help, and participating in a great ride.
“It’s a well put-on ride. We do a lot of rides and that one is really well organized. They do a really good job. I can’t think of anything on that ride that needs improvement. It’s getting bigger and bigger, and I hope it keeps getting bigger and bigger.
“It’s for a good cause,” said Milnor. “It’s not about the hospital. It’s about the Garden Room and what they do for the family and how they take care of people.”
Also supporting the event were numerous business sponsors, prize donors, volunteers and individuals lining the motorcycle route.
Led by Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak with road guard services from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, this year’s motorcycle ride took participants on a 75-mile loop through central Vermont. Along the way, people held up signs reading “thank you” and naming loved ones lost. Some people were openly crying. Others cheered.
Riders waved and honked and later posted rave reviews on Facebook.
“Wonderful day, great ride with great people,” wrote Roxanne Benson. “Thank you to all of those who work so hard to pull this off every year. So glad $54,000 was earned for the Garden Room.”
“Thank you for a wonderful ride and a magnificent day! Already have the calendar marked for next year,” wrote Caryn Wallace from Connecticut.
“A great time this year! Next year cannot come soon enough! A big thank you for all involved with organizing and helping run LMR ’12 and for everyone who showed up to walk, run, pedal and ride,” wrote Brian Sargeant II.
Next year’s ride is slated for Aug. 17, 2013.
Photos by Janet Miller and Tammy Hooker