Kathy Larson
Cyclist 2016

As we go through life, sometimes our circumstances change and cause us to notice something that we never noticed before. Or perhaps we focus on something we were aware of, but hadn’t previously paid much attention to..

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Mario Lupone, Jr.
Cyclist 2016, 2015 and 2014

For the last three years, at least one Lupone family member has participated in the Closer to Free Ride. Mario Jr. got involved while in nursing school  where his clinical classes were done at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

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Christen Nelson
Volunteer 2016 and 2015

I have had the privilege to participate in the Closer to Free Ride for the last 2 years. I am a registered nurse specializing in orthopedics at Yale New Haven Hospital.

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Elliot Bauer
Cyclist 2016 and 2015

My wife and I decided to Ride Closer to Free in 2015 with team Gary’s Wheels.  Gary was a friend from Cheshire with a sharp mind, a great sense of humor, and who was always on the move. Unfortunately, Gary passed away last year way too young but we continue to ride in his memory.

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John Wysolmerski
Volunteer 2016
Cyclist 2014 and 2015

Why I Ride/Volunteer for Closer to Free.
When a cycling accident this August prevented me from participating in the CTF Ride, it was a no-brainer to pick up those crutches and volunteer at the Yale Bowl instead. 

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Darriell Rolka
Cyclist 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011

Six Year Rider…since the very first ride!

Working at Yale-New Haven Hospital and being a bike rider, I was thrilled to participate in the very first CTF Ride in 2011.  At the time, I was riding for my Brother-in-Law who lost his life to cancer.  The camaraderie was outstanding and knowing every dollar raised was going to cancer research really pushed me.

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Henry Torniero
Volunteer 2016 and 2015

I am Henry Torniero, I am a husband and a father, I am a patient of Smilow Cancer Hospital. On January 3, 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, began chemotherapy in March and had surgery in May of the same year. 

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Joe Miragliuolo
Cyclist 2016, 2015 and 2014

Why do I ride? This ride is about all of us; it’s too important to wait for others to do it. Simple...

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Louis Siegel
Volunteer 2016 and 2015

My wife and I feel privileged to be able to do something to give back to our friends, our family and the research and treatment at the Smilow Cancer Hospital through our participation in the Closer To Free Ride.

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Katie Behr
Cyclist 2016, 2015 and 2014

Katie Behr started riding Closer to Free in memory of and to honor a friend and fellow mom in her community. In fact, her team, Moms for Megan, is a group of moms, wives, sisters, daughters and friends all riding in memory of Megan.  As a cancer previvor, Katie is grateful for the support and research, which may be saving her life. 

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Christine Festa
Volunteer 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011

One of the highlights of every Closer to Free Ride is the Smilow Salute, when our riders get to see and embrace the staff and patients they’re riding for.  This year is Christine Festa’s second year volunteering with the Smilow Salute Cheer Team. Her surgery and recovery at Smilow in 2014 coincided with the Closer To Free Ride, where she found herself down on the street experiencing something that would stick with her forever.  She knew she needed to be back after her discharge. 

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Tanya Srdanovic
Cyclist 2016, 2015

Tanya Srdanovic first really got to know cancer at her first job maintaining pediatric medical records at a large cancer center.  Back then, all the records were hard copy and a few of the more unfortunate children had more than 30 folders representing visits and procedures.  This experience was the beginning of her dedication to helping fight cancer any way she can. 

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Scott Capozza
Volunteer 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011

As both a cancer survivor and physical therapist, Scott Capozza was intrigued when he was selected 10 years ago to be a founding member of the adult cancer survivorship clinic at Yale Cancer Center. It was the first multi-disciplinary clinic on the East Coast specifically addressing the many needs and concerns of survivors.  Now this veteran CTF Ride marshal gets to help raise funds for the program he helped to create. 

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Marian Brodney
Cyclist 2016, 2015

Like so many, Marian Brodney has been touched by cancer in many, many ways. She states clearly “Cancer isn’t fair.” She is the youngest of five children in a close-knit family and we wanted you to hear her moving and powerful s story in her own words….

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Kate Holthausen
Volunteer 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

Kate Holthausen watched the first CTF Ride roll by Smilow Cancer Hospital, as she was there caring for her grandson who was in treatment.  She’s had a long history with cancer, including her own battle with breast cancer.  Now a 4-year CTF Ride volunteer, we want you to hear Kate’s story and motivation in her own words.

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Donna Espenberg
Cyclist 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013

As a Business Manager in the Radiation Oncology department, Donna Espenberg doesn’t often get to interact with patients and their families.  That’s why riding Closer to Free is such an important experience for her and why she calls it an “amazing and life-altering experience.” 

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Tanya Coleman
Volunteer 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011

Tanya Coleman has been a dedicated Closer to Free volunteer since the very first Ride. She began because her husband was diagnosed in March of 2010 with throat cancer and after 8 weeks of radiation went into remission, where he remains to this day.  Although her husband is a survivor, Tanya has lost other members of her family to the disease, which deepens her connection to the event even further. 

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Yvette Larrieu
Cyclist 2015, 2016

Cancer has been a part of Yvette Larrieu’s family for generations.  She has lost her mother, her grandmother and her uncle.  She has lost friends and mentors.  And last year, when she had had enough, she rode Closer to Free.  She didn’t know that she too would soon experience Smilow as a patient. 

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Denise Iorio
Volunteer 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011

As a survivor and former patient at Smilow Cancer Hospital, Denise Iorio has been a loyal CTF Ride volunteer since the very first Ride.  That year, her husband and son rode in her honor and Denise volunteered at a rest stop and cheered her family and all the riders on. She hasn’t stopped cheering yet.

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Bonnie Cohen
Cyclist 2015
Volunteer 2014, 2013 and 2012

In December 2011, Bonnie Cohen was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After successful treatment at Smilow Cancer Hospital, she was filled with gratitude for the wonderful care she received and decided to volunteer for the CTF Ride to begin to give back.  But this is a Rider Profile, isn’t it? 

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Brenda Cartmel
Volunteer 2015, 2014 and 2012

Brenda Cartmel was only 21 when she began her career as a nurse in Liverpool, England on the cancer ward. She cared for young people her age or younger and watched many of them lose their fights.  The experience moved her and ultimately led her to work as a cancer epidemiologist at Yale, where part of her work involves evaluating the benefits of exercise for cancer survivors. 

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Liz Falcigno
Cyclist 2015

Liz Falcigno was introduced to Smilow years ago when her grandfather, Ed Falcigno, was diagnosed with cancer. She was always impressed with the caring doctors, nurses and staff who treated her “Papa” like family.  Liz’s Papa passed away in June and she knew she wanted to give back to the place that took such great care of a man she loved so much. She didn’t own a bike but she registered to ride 25 miles in honor of her beloved Papa, who had mentioned the Ride many times to her.

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Constance Costa
Vounteer 2015 and 2014

Constance Costa discovered the CTF Ride in 2014 when her best friend Diane Miranda introduced her to rider Manny (Junior Colon).  She saw his pictures and comments about Closer to Free on Facebook and knew she wanted to be a part of it. Not a cyclist, Constance decided to volunteer. Constance worked for Yale Cancer Center for the protocol review committees and then moved on to her current department,Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI), which provides support for all aspects of research at Yale (you can learn more about YCCI at the Finish Line Festival each year).

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Clayton Curtiss
Cyclist, 2015

Clayton Curtiss and his wife Mary spent some of the happiest days of their 40-year marriage on two wheels. Like a 42-day, 1,400 mile ride through Europe. A century along the Connecticut River. And sixty miles on Clayton’s 60th birthday. In 2006, though, breast cancer robbed Mary of her balance and their glorious days of riding together were over. 

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Carrie Pyer
Volunteer, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Closer to Free Ride

As a RN, I have had the privilege of volunteering for Closer to Free Ride for the last 4 years.  Initially I was a medical volunteer, and then have worked at registration for the last three years. It's an honor to personally thank each rider for their commitment. Closer to Free is important to me both personally and professionally.

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David Gewirtz
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015

Veteran CTF Rider David Gewirtz provides us with a heartfelt account of his 2015 Ride:

Saturday at 5 am my alarm clock rung like an old telephone and I sprung out of bed to shut the alarm off on my iPhone. The night before, I had prepared so I could quickly ready myself to ride in the Closer to Free Ride.  When I arrived at the Yale Bowl at 6:00am it was cloudy and I thought I would be riding 100 miles in the rain.

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Erica Fenwick
Cyclist, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

I am no athlete. In fact, one of my biggest concerns about registering for the CTF Ride was that I would need to ride a bike, something I had not done in 20+ years! My second concern was around the fundraising. When my cousin, Carl Hubbard, was diagnosed with advanced stage germ cell cancer he turned to Smilow Cancer Hospital for treatment.

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Luray Shepard
Volunteer, 2014 and 2015

In 2013, my cousin died in August and soon after her wife road 100 miles in her memory in the Closer to Free Ride.  That year, I stopped at various points along the shore to cheer her on, ending at the Guilford Green. I didn’t know how much happens at the Yale Bowl until I saw the video of her crossing the finish. I decided then that I had to be a part of the whole day.

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Gerry Campion
Volunteer, 2014 and 2015 Closer to Free Ride

Gerry Campion first got involved with Closer To Free when he saw the iconic flash mob commercial during the Super Bowl a few years ago.  The commercial was even more inspiring as because Gerry had been recently diagnosed with recurrent breast cancer and his wife was two years out of her bout with breast cancer. 

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Gary Dangle
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Closer to Free Ride
Sue Dangle
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

Usually our Rider and Volunteer spotlights are separate, but this month we introduce you to a dynamic husband and wife duo who are also a rider and volunteer duo.  Sue and Gary Dangle have been involved since the very first Closer to Free Ride and as continues as a volunteer, Gary continues as a rider and cancer survivor. 

Read their stories in their own words here.


Amy Parulis
Cyclist, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

It’s not about me. It’s all about Madeline. I started the Mad About Madeline team for Closer to Free in honor of my 8-year-old friend from East Lyme, CT. Madeline is battling cancer for the second time in her young life. Yes, you read that right.  

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Jack Gehrke
Volunteer, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

If you’ve ridden the #CTFRide, you’re familiar with the friendly faces on motorcycles who make sure every complex intersection is safe for riders.  Jack Gehrke has been a member of the amazing Moto Safety Team since the very first ride and he’ll be back this year with his bike, his smile and his own personal connection to cancer. 

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Jim Winkler
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

Jim Winkler was on the hunt for a long-distance ride to benefit a cancer charity. After cancer had touched his life in so many ways, he bought his first road bike in 2010 and started training to ride at least 100 miles. His hunt ended when he found the Closer to Free Ride and, five years later, he’s still riding.

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Ashley Hoben
Volunteer, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

CTF Ride Volunteer Ashley Hoben was stunned when she was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago. She credits Smilow with saving her life and knew that Smilow was the place to go after the heartbreaking news that her son was diagnosed with lymphoma just two years later. 

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Wendy Gniady & Steve Chase
Cyclists, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

On his father’s birthday, ten years after losing him to cancer, my husband Steve Chase was diagnosed with primary brain cancer (Grade 3 Anaplastic Oligoastrocytoma) in the ER at Yale.  This began a long and loving relationship with Smilow and the Closer to Free Ride that continues to this day.  As far as we’d known, Steve was perfectly healthy before, a grand mal seizure that came out of nowhere forced us to rush to the ER. 

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Ashley Keyes
Volunteer, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

When she was 18, Ashley Keyes’s uncle was diagnosed with a glioblastoma at the age of 42 and within 8 months, he passed before ever getting a dose of chemotherapy. Ashley was devastated, but also inspired. That moment led her to not only a career in nursing but also her 5 year passion as a volunteer on the Closer to Free Ride.

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Stacey Hubbard
Cyclist, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

A crusade is a concerted effort or a vigorous movement for a cause. The 88 members of Carl’s Crusaders are certainly behind a concerted effort to deliver on Stacey Hubbard’s quest to honor the love of her life, Carl, after he passed away in 2013. That was the year that Carl’s Crusaders joined the Closer to Free Ride and they continue to be inspired by Stacey’s leadership and passion. 

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Ann Amaturo
Volunteer, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Closer to Free Ride

Ann Amaturo has worked in the Radiation Oncology Department of Smilow Cancer Hospital for the past 9 years. For more than half of those years, she’s been a volunteer on the Closer to Free Ride. 

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Mike Argiro
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Seven years ago Mike Argiro and some friends formed Team for Tomorrow, a small riding team that rode in a cancer ride out of state. They always talked about how great it would be if they could ride for the cause locally.  When the CTF Ride was born, Team for Tomorrow was in from day one. 

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Joe and Marilyn Lipsky
Volunteer, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Joe and Marilyn (Mar) Lipsky are a formidable team in the fight against cancer.  At first, their niece Cheryl Gans, a nurse at Smilow Cancer Hospital, inspired them by riding the CTF Century and motivated the Lipskys to volunteer together three years ago.  “We help setting up and getting everything ready,” Joe says.  

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Vincent R. Farricielli
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

I have both family and friends who have battled this insidious illness called cancer.  Smilow Cancer Hospital has been very instrumental in the treatment of this elusive disease.  The Smilow medical team has made amazing strides in medical research and treatment.  They continue to create a monumental difference in the lives of their patients by working tirelessly to overcome all obstacles through “positive” thinking. 

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Carolyn Truini
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

For the last three years, Carolyn Truini has volunteered as Captain of the Sleeping Giant Rest Stop on the CTF Ride.  She loves it so much that she doesn’t even mind getting up at 4:30am on a Saturday to be at Sleeping Giant at 5:30am.  Then again, she says that Ride Day is everyone at Smilow’s favorite day of the year. 

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John Ravenna
Cyclist, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

This month’s Rider Profile is a heartfelt story of love and dedication written by John Ravenna about his late wife Rita and the mission of Team Rita.

Rita Ravenna was a beautiful, intelligent and creative woman who was taken from us far too early.

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Bonnie Cohen
Volunteer, 2012, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Bonnie Cohen was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011 and underwent treatment at Smilow Cancer Hospital. She wanted to give back to the people and the institution that helped her become a survivor and volunteering on the Closer to Free Ride was the perfect way to do so.  

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Darrow Loucks
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Darrow Loucks has been a patient for much of his life. His first bout with cancer came when he 
was just one month old when he lost his right eye and also some vision in his left eye. Since the 
late 80s he has had several basil cell and squamous cell carcinomas in his eyes. And in 2007 he 
developed a benign tumor in his brain. None of this has stopped him from conquering the Closer 
to Free Century each year.

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Noelle Sowers
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

At the very first Closer to Free Ride, Noelle Sowers volunteered for the morning shift at the Yale Bowl medical tent.  But after seeing all the riders come in at 25 miles, she just couldn’t tear herself away and go home.  She’s been a part of the Closer to Free family ever since.  

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Sunshine Sousa
Cyclist, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride
Volunteer, 2011, 2012 Closer to Free Ride

When CTF Ride volunteer and rider Sunshine Sousa started working at Yale- New Haven as an oncology nurse in 2001, she had no idea a couple of short years later roles would be reversed and she would be a patient. 

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Walter Ostrinski
Volunteer, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

A long time runner, Walter Ostrinki’s first exposure to the Ride came from seeing the riders come by his street near Sleeping Giant State Park.  And then, his running group was saddened to hear that one of their own had been diagnosed with cancer and was beginning the treatment process at Smilow. The running group soon became a cycling team and Walter found himself a part of the Closer to Free Family as a volunteer. 

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Patrick Kinney
Cyclist, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

Last year, Patrick Kinney was thrilled that he was able to do exactly what he’d told everyone he’d do:  Ride 62.5 miles to help combat a disease that has touched so many close to him.  Little did he know that this year so many in the CTF Ride community, including his daughter, would be riding for him.

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Gisela Boxleitner
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

The most popular person in New Haven on Ride Day might just be Gisela Boxleitner.  That’s because this long-time volunteer coordinates the incredible massage therapists at the Yale Bowl who take care of riders’ sore backs, legs and arms as they come in off the route.  

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Karen DiCrosta
Cyclist, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

In March of this year, Karen DiCrosta’s life changed within hours.  It was then that her14-year-old daughter, Halle, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.   They were shocked, scared, and confused, but very quickly realized that Halle was in the best hands possible at a top-notch facility. 

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Kelly Grimshaw
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

When Kelly Grimshaw signed her employment contract with YNHH, she signed on to help the hospital complete its mission of patient care, teaching, research and community service.  As a veteran medical volunteer on the Closer to Free Ride about to return for her 4thyear, Kelly has more than lived up to her side of the contract.

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Lisa J. Anderson
Cyclist, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

"Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." Joan Didion penned those words in her seminal work “The Year of Magical Thinking”.  Lisa Anderson knows all too well how true those words can be. 

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Diane Dirzius
Volunteer, 2011, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Diane Dirzius has made a life out of taking care of others. She does it as an oncology nurse at Smilow Cancer Hospital and as a rest stop medical volunteer on the Closer to Free Ride. And she loves both of them.

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Leonard Barraco
Cyclist, 2011, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Leonard Barraco watched his first Closer to Free Ride in 2011 from the sidewalk in front of Smilow Cancer Hosptial.   He had never ridden a bike but on that day he decided that the following year he’d ride for his dad and his wife – little did he know that someday he’d be riding for himself.  

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Marty Juliano
Volunteer, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

This will be Marty Juliano’s third year volunteering at the Closer to Free Ride along with his wife Karen. Not only do Marty and Karen work hard to make sure every rider’s experience is a great one, Marty is an essential member of the Closer to Free family because he’s the captain of Team Sierra Nevada – our beer garden sponsor!

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Angelique Garay
Cyclist, 2011, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

In the spring of 2011 Angelique Garay looked at the advertisement for the first Closer to Free Ride. In her youth, she was an avid rider and she had been deeply affected by cancer so on that day her team was born: Macs and Millers.

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Annie Garcia Kaplan
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

As a 9-year breast cancer survivor, Annie Garcia Kaplan approaches the Closer to Free Ride each year as a celebration.  In fact, she and her group started the tradition of the Smilow Salute, a memorable celebration where patients and staff members cheer on the riders at the entrance to Smilow Cancer Hospital during the Ride’s first mile.

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Cait Clark
Cyclist, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Before last September, Cait Clark couldn’t imagine riding her bike 30 miles, let alone 100 miles. Now, this dedicated rider is ready to ride the Closer to Free Century on September 6.

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Kristin McJunkins
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Six years ago this month Kristin McJunkins received a terrifying diagnosis of Stage 3 Melanoma. This after she’d lost several family members and friends to different forms of cancer over the previous decade.  Part of her healing process is as a volunteer for the CTF Ride.  

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Monica Lucas
Volunteer, 2011, 2012 and 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Monica’s passion for volunteering started back in high school when she joined Key Club International, the high school level of Kiwanis International, a service organization that focuses on building leadership skills and community service.  Since then she’s volunteered her time for food and toy drives, fundraisers and officiated soccer with the Special Olympics.  When the first CTF Ride was announced she couldn’t wait to get involved. 

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Robert Illy
Cyclist, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Robert Illy started cycling 30 years ago and did his first century ride in 1985 when he was 17 years old.  When he became a Physical Therapist Assistant at YNHH in January 2014 he heard about the Closer to Free Ride.  Having been touched by cancer, this avid cyclist knew that this was the perfect ride for him. 

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Douglas Johnson
Cyclist, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

To truly understand what brought Douglas Johnson to the Closer to Free Ride, you need to understand just how close he was to his father.  And just how shocked he was to learn not only that his dad had cancer, but that Douglas would end up fighting his own battle against the disease alongside his father.

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Janine Oliva
Volunteer, 2012, 2013, 2014 Closer to Free Ride

Being in the hotel business, Janine Oliva is used to early morning hours. One of her favorite reasons for getting up early is to lead her volunteer set up team from The Study at Yale at dawn on the morning of the Closer to Free Ride. She loves to watch the Yale Bowl come to life with positive, loving energy in the air and the ultimate sense of community and togetherness.  

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Betsy Holbrook
Volunteer, 2012, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

In early September of 2011, I was driving through Guilford, and all I noticed were all of the bike riders that were in my way. I was on my way to Smilow to visit my 2 1/2 year old nephew Patrick James. Just days before, Patrick had been brought to Yale-New Haven Children's ER where it was discovered he had a brain tumor. The next day, after surgery to remove 3 tumors, Patrick was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. 

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Mary Amter
Cyclist, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

Throughout her life, Mary Amter has tried to be a part of civic organizations and charities that would help improve people's lives. She has seen first-hand the toll cancer can have on a family. Her team, Carl’s Crusades is fighting back. 

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Christine Peck
Volunteer, 2012, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

Christine Peck’s brother Ken Zaldo has been a CTF Ride Marshal since the beginning.  Through her brother, Christine got involved with the Ride as a volunteer and after one experience, she was hooked.

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Chris Blumenstetter
Cyclist, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

When Chris Blumenstetter’s 6’4’ 230lb college roommate of four years told him that he had testicular cancer with one game left in the season, it shook him to his core.  He thought that he and his teammates were indestructible. 

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Debbie Klotzer
Volunteer, 2011, 2012, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

Debbie Klotzer has been with Yale-New Haven Hospital for 34 years, and for 33 of those years she’s worked directly with Art Lemay Executive Director of the Smilow Cancer Network. Now she’s a proud member of the Closer to Free Ride Steering Committee. 

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Joanne DeVito
Cyclist, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

Joanne DeVito’s son-in-law Adam and his brother Brendan rode 100 miles in last year’s Closer to Free Ride in memory of their father Ron who passed away on July 4, 2012. Little did they know that their team “Ride for Ron” would grow not only in riders, but also in the number of people they ride to support.

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Meredith Thornton
Cyclist, 2013 Closer to Free Ride

Cancer has been a part of Meredith Thornton's life for a long time. She lost her grandmother to cancer and six years ago Meredith's wife Jennifer was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called Leiomyosarcoma. But through it all, she remains positive.

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