The Closer to Free Ride community gathered for its annual kick-off party in Branford Thursday.
The bicycle ride, now in its eighth year, raises money for the Yale-New Haven Smilow Cancer Hospital and the Yale Research Center.
Every dollar raised supports patient care and advanced research at Smilow and the Yale Cancer Center. Last year, the seventh annual race raised $3 million.
Closer to Free registration is now open and new this year there will be a 40-mile course in addition to the other distances - 10 miles, 25 miles, 65 miles, or 100 miles.
The Closer to Free ride has special significance to many riders. Last year, NBC Connecticut met with twin sisters Heather and Crystal Gagnon.
Heather works at Smilow and had planned to ride last year. But in June, she felt a lump and discovered she had breast cancer.
Because Heather couldn’t ride, Crystal hopped on the bike instead, and Heather vowed to join her next time. When we checked in, Heather said she was doing well and ready to ride this year.
“It’s a really big year for me. It means a lot to me not only for everything that I’ve been through a really close friend of mine was also just diagnosed and I’ll be riding for her this year as well,” Heather said.
And Crystal is still by her side in support.
“It definitely helped motivate me to think I’m capable of doing anything with what she’s been through and Yale’s been great and they really did help us through the whole process,” Crystal added.
The eighth annual Closer to Free Ride in Saturday, Sept. 8.