closer to free

A Lifetime of Friendship Fuels Closer to Free Rider

NBC Universal, Inc.

Last year was Bob Pigue’s first Closer to Free ride.

“It was spectacular, nothing shy of spectacular,” said Pigue of Team Scalfani.

It may have been Pigue’s first time, but it wasn’t the first for the team’s namesake, Pat Scalfani, who rode in 2018.

"Pat had such an overwhelmingly positive experience with Yale New Haven and Smilow that we moved over to the Closer To Free Ride last year," Pigue explained.

Scalfani and Pigue are best friends, graduating from Trinity College together, getting married and starting their own families.

They’re so close, Scalfani is godfather to Pigue’s daughter Kaitlin. Their 50-year friendship began with elementary school basketball.

“We ended up playing against the Cuban Olympic team in Havana in 1979, and that had sort of been the core of our bond throughout our life.”

Scalfani became sick in 2006, and Pigue says his friend’s illness was misdiagnosed.

“It wasn’t until he got to Yale New Haven that they figured out what this was,” said Pigue.

He had an invasive form of cancer which he beat. In 2007, cycling in cancer rides became their new sport.

“We’ve ridden for something like 13 years in a row together, and he was supposed to join us as part of the team," Pigue said.

The entire Team Scalfani planned to join Closer to Free in 2019, following Pat’s first ride they year before. But he couldn’t make it. His cancer came back.

The team rode on, most taking the 40-mile trek. They all made their customary stop together before the finish line to cross as a team. And Scalfani had a surprise.

“As we were crossing the finish line Pat was also crossing the finish line in an ambulance," Pigue said.

The Closer to Free team got him there, and the spirit of the day carried him the rest of the way with Team Scalfani.  

“For him it was really important to continue to support the organization and support the great work,” said Pigue.  

Scalfani passed away this spring, so this year Team Scalfani is completing their virtual Closer to Free ride in Vermont.

“It’s not many people in your life outside of your family that you get to know for as long as we’ve known each other, so it’s been a very special relationship for me obviously,” said Pigue. A ride this year that will honor the memory of a man who showed that friendships really do last a lifetime.

NBC Connecticut is a proud partner of the Closer to Free ride.

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