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Closer to Free Ride coasts to record-breaking totals

closer to free

Lenny Barraco (left), Plant Engineering and Pat Luddy, retired YNHH vice president, gave the thumbs up sign in support of the 2017 Closer to Free Ride Sept. 9. Barraco rode with Team C4C ... Cycle4Cures.

The 7th Closer to Free Ride, to benefit Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center, represents more than just another fundraiser for those who ride, volunteer, cheer and donate to the cause. Considered to be one the preeminent rides in the region, the Sept. 9 ride drew 1,750 riders and raised more than $2.5 million for patient care and research.

closer to free ride

All four of the Closer to Free Ride routes started at Yale Bowl and passed Smilow Cancer Hospital, where riders participated in the “Smilow Salute.” Riders acknowledged the patients and spectators gathered on the sidewalk and waved to those peering from the hospital’s windows. Many riders, such as Susan Faraone, RN, coordinator, Stem Cell Transplant, stopped for a brief yet emotional moment to greet bystanders.
Trying to describe the ride to those unfamiliar with the event, Charlene Weted, RN, Temple Endoscopy Center, urges people to experience it for themselves to fully understand the emotional connection people have with the hospital, staff, patients and supporters.

“I tell them to just go once and it will change you for the rest of your life,” said Weted, a cancer survivor who completed the 25-mile route in her fourth Closer to Free ride. “I do it because I think it’s important to be humble and grateful and to recognize the support of so many people.”

Cancer-free for six years now, Weted was in treatment the first year she rode.

“Five years cancer-free was a big milestone, but these years now are just amazing.” Weted’s daughter encouraged her to form a team in support of the care she received at Smilow. This year, her team of 10, Char’s Stars, raised over $11,000.

Riders selected one of four routes – 10, 25, 62.5 or 100 miles – each starting and ending at Yale Bowl, where there was food and entertainment throughout the day. To learn more about the Closer to Free Ride, visit