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