In just five weeks, a family from Guilford will honor their late husband and father at the 2017 Closer to Free Ride.
“It matters to me because it mattered to Pat so much,” Paula Kinney said. “But it mattered to Pat so much because he had firsthand experience of what the money was doing.”
An aggressive round of cancer treatment didn’t stop Pat Kinney from riding 25 miles in last year’s Closer to Free.
“We really didn’t think he was going to be able to do it,” Paula said. “Sheer determination, Pat did it. He was committed.”
Paula’s husband first signed up for the ride with his friends from Guilford years before his diagnosis.
“The team is Team Augur’s Irish Pub,” Paula said. “It was his spot in town, they’re friends, such good friends.”
In May 2014, this fundraiser supporting patient care and research at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven became that much more personal for Pat when he began his own battle.
“So head and neck was the official category,” Paula said. “But it was in his tonsil.”
That following September, when Pat was too weak, Nell Kinney hopped on a bike to ride in honor of her dad.
“It meant a lot to me because like you go out there, you see all the people with survivor jerseys,” she said.
Paul and her daughters built close relationships with the staff at Smilow, especially in the month they stayed with Pat before he passed way in March. He was 51-years-old.
“Although, it was such a sad time,” Emily Kinney said. “It was time we were all able to be together, and we became friends with the nurses.”
“What we remember a lot was how pleasant the staff was when we came in everyone had a smile on their face,” Paula added.
This year Paula is getting ready for her first ride.
“I’m really proud of her I think that it’s a great step because I know she debated it for a long time,” Nell said.
Next month, Paul plans to cross the finish line.
“Cause he can’t,” she said holding back tears. “Pretty much, we wanted to do it together and never had the chance and I want to be with his team because I just feel like I’ll feel his presence being with his team riding.”
Paul is training to take on the 62.5-mile course. That is the distance Pat used to ride before last year.
There’s still time to sign up for Closer to Free on Saturday, Sept. 9.