Closer to Free Ride

Now Three Months Away, the Closer to Free Ride Season Kicks Off

Every dollar raised goes right back to Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.

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The Closer to Free training season is underway. Three months from now, cyclists from around the state, the country and the world will ride hundreds of miles for Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.

And this year, the excitement returns to the Yale Bowl for the twelfth Closer to Free Ride.

“So, we would love to see as many folks as we can at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, in person, and to reconnect our community,” said Jessica Scheps, director of the Closer to Free Ride.

Sept. 10 will be a big day. After two years of dedicated riders raising thousands of dollars through virtual Closer to Free Rides, cyclists are signing up for the first ride through New Haven since 2019.

“We already have 1,000 folks registered for in-person, we would love to reach our 2019 numbers, which is close to 2500,” Scheps said.

Closer to Free organizers decided to keep the virtual option because it shows how far the ride can reach. International riders and those across the U.S. have been able to join the fight against cancer in a way that best fits them.

“You know, folks who have a family member being treated at Smilow, or just want to support the cause can do so from wherever they are. They can ride a Peloton, they can ride their bike in their community, they can connect with us virtually and be part of the community, they can fundraise from afar. And it really works. It's successful,” Scheps said.

And every dollar raised goes right back to Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.

“It has funded programs that we wouldn't necessarily be able to fund with our budgets, things like our survivorship program, clinical trials, our palliative care program or complementary medicine program,” Scheps said.  

Cancer survivor Paul Egan is riding this year. It’s his first in-person race, and second year participating. He said he’s glad the money raised will support more research.

Paul Egan hopes to continue repairing bikes after an upcoming transplant.

“That makes me very happy because I was in a clinical trial,” Egan said.

He was also an inpatient for four months at Smilow before and after he received a bone marrow transplant.

“And I saw the care… and how it was given by these amazing nurses. And it touched my heart. It just touched my heart,” Egan said. “So, the fact that all the money goes to people like that, you know, it makes me feel really good.”

And for the first time this year, teams of four or more riders can chose where they want their money to go. Whether it’s research, care or a specific type of cancer.

This year could be the most memorable yet.

“Just to have this community together again, after two years, this is a passionate community of patients, supporters, family members, they are so beyond dedicated to this cause and to gather everyone together at the elbow will be absolutely phenomenal,” Scheps said.

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