Beth Keegan and Rob Coogan have been together a lifetime.
“I’m going to be 55 in October, so 54 and 10 months, something like that,” said Coogan. “Yeah, he was number four and I was number three,” said Beth.
Her last name changed slightly, and that’s the only difference between this brother and sister pair. They are the two youngest of four, and most of their lives, cancer has loomed in the background.
“Both of our parents were treated at Smilow,” said Beth. “Our dad passed about 15 years ago after a bout with colon cancer. And our mother is a 52-year cancer survivor, two times.”
Their parents are Robert and Kathy Coogan. They say Kathy is their inspiration.
“She battled it and she’s a fighter,” said Rob. “She’s one tough little, feisty, Irish woman that will not give up,” said Rob.
She is why they say early cancer detection and research are important. The Closer to Free Ride is one of the ways they can support those efforts.
“It’s just a remarkable organization and if we can raise money to bring us all closer to free, that’s why we ride,” said Beth. “It was great to be able to honor both our parents and so many people we ride with. And so many people on that Closer to Free Ride have that same touch, we all get touched by cancer.”
It’s her eighth ride and Rob’s 10th. She carries an index card with names of people gathered over the years to honor on her rides. Rob is proud of the collection of Closer to Free jerseys from the last ten years, plus the one that shows off their team flair: UConn Huskies jerseys.
“A couple years in we decided we needed something to stand out, so we were all UCONN grads and everybody on the team went to UConn,” said Rob.
So, they became team Huskies for Hope. This year the team of six will ride one hundred miles for Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center. It’s a tradition they kept up during the pandemic.
“We felt as though it was still doing something for a great cause and there were so many people that we know that started a cancer treatment during the pandemic, and the loneliness of that and the challenges of that were extraordinary,” said Beth.
They'll be back in person on September 11 among survivors that they say are also an inspiration.
“Every year you come to that ride and you’re blown away by the support and the folks that have survived cancer, and it’s just so powerful,” said Rob.
There’s little sibling rivalry on the team. They each have their strengths.
They say the real competition is finding a cure for an illness that has come so close to home.
“We have a family history of cancer so you know we have to be extra vigilant about that,” said Rob. “So an event like this that you can give money to research or give money to people that are fighting that’s, it’s so huge.”
“The only way to cure cancer is through research,” said Beth. “And cancer will be a livable disease and we just hope it will be a livable disease within our lifetime.”
NBC Connecticut is a proud partner of the Closer to Free Ride.