IN THE SUBURBS: CT Challenge Riding Team honors my co-worker’s mom and dad
My work colleague Matt lost his dad Frank in 2011 from a brain tumor, and his mom Karen, a survivor, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years later. We talked one evening and I learned that Matt and his family formed a Connecticut (CT) Challenge bicycling team, Frank’s Flyers, 6 years ago when his dad was still alive and they’ve continued faithfully every year to honor Matt’s dad and mom, who is, thankfully, cancer free.
I explained to Matt that my annual testimonial to the great work of the CT Challenge is to focus on a survivor or team and he was very willing to be my 2016 choice in advance of this 12th annual ride on July 29 and 30. I am hoping to attend the kickoff ceremonies again at the Fairfield Hunt Club as I have for the past three years.
Frank’s flyers is a team of about 10 people, according to what Matt told me. They’ve pretty consistently ridden 50 miles annually as a family and several family members have managed to accomplish 75 miles. His dad rode the first year and his mom has consistently been a rider all 6 years.
“We ride the CT Challenge in Frank’s Memory,” said Karen Caramico, Frank’s widow. “We honor his courage and fortitude during his illness. And the Center for Survivorship in Southport is an amazing place for cancer survivors to thrive in a very supportive environment.”
“For me the event shows a perspective that life can change at any moment so we have to appreciate the things we have now. Overall the CT challenge is an extremely supportive event that looks to benefit the lives of not only cancer survivors but anyone who has experienced the effects of cancer.”
In the six years that Frank’s Flyers have been riding in the CT Challenge, Matt estimated that the team has probably raised more than $15,000 for cancer research through the generosity of family, friends and work colleagues. As I was completing this essay, he was preparing to send his annual appeal letter to donors and potential donors to request their support of Frank’s Flyers and their efforts.
According to statistics on the CT Challenge web site, “Today there are an estimated 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United State.” Many of these individuals have unique health conditions which are not addressed by current medical care.
The Center for Survivorship fills many of the voids left by hospitals, which often don’t have enough available doctors or the capabilities to treat cancer patients with unusual needs.
For me, as just an observer, there is nothing like that kick-off morning. In the three years I’ve been covering this special event, the weather has cooperated and as CEO Jeff Keith has built the momentum for the crowd I have shed many tears as a container supplied by Bridgeport Hospital is opened and hundreds of butterflies fill the space at the Hunt Club where the event is held.
About 100 teams, like Frank’s Flyers, participate in the CT Challenge, which probably raised nearly $2 million in 2015. . A good friend of mine, Lee, who had worked for the CT
Challenge, but has since moved out of state, told me that probably no other Conn. community has supported this Hometown charity as much as Fairfield has. And support from other communities has grown as well.
There is still a week to break out a bicycle or rent one from several area bike stores and train even for a 5 or 10-mile ride. Lee told me that the distance one rides is not important. It’s the show of support that will make the difference in the CT Challenge.
Who among us doesn’t know a cancer survivor? Among family and friends I know at least three. And this year as I watch Frank’s Flyers roll out of the Hunt Club for its 50-mile team drive, I’ll be remembering valiant fighters like Amy Nessel, who lost her battle in the last year but inspired so many by her courage and called the Center for Survivorship her “Soft Place to Land.”
And I’ll also be remembering one of my students, Rafael, who fought so hard in the last year and only this week lost his battle. His courage and positive attitude to the end made him an inspiration also and I know when I see the butterflies, his spirit will soar also.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.