closer to free

Wallingford Couple Celebrating 40 Years, Unstoppable Spirit

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“We basically know what the other one is going to say before they say it. That’s what happens when you’re together this long.”

Virginia Dougan and her husband Gary met in high school and this December they’ll celebrate 40 years of marriage, plus the seven years they were together before they tied the knot.

“There’s definitely a fight to go through all of this,” said Dougan. “There’s a lot of ups and downs, but I would never give up on him and he would never give up on me.”

The pair are unstoppable in Gary’s fight against lung cancer. It seems fitting, as that’s the theme for this year’s Closer to Free Ride.

“It’s a wonderful cause and I would like to do as much as I possibly can, especially in name of my husband right now.”

This her fourth Closer to Free Ride. She started in 2018 in honor of her sister Denise who died of breast cancer twenty years earlier.

“It was just really an awesome feeling,” said Dougan. “I just always felt like my sister was there with me.”

She’s on the Tony’s Tigers team, and like so many, she was looking forward to being back in person on September 11 for the opening ceremony and the moments leading up to the ride. 

“You’re just all approaching this gate to leave and it’s just this overwhelming feeling that there are so many people with this dedication to ride.”

She’s sad that this year will be another virtual event, but she’s glad that she’ll hit the Farmington Canal with her son. She says it’s part of a bigger picture.

“It’s all for a good cause so it doesn’t matter whether we’re out on the roads together, on the Farmington Canal together, wherever. We’re raising funds for Smilow and its research.”

Research she says has helped her husband through treatment for lung cancer.

“The research has come such a long way from when my sister was diagnosed to when my husband was diagnosed,” said Dougan.

Gary’s doctor even conducts research that is funded by the Closer to Free Ride. Virginia got a late start on fund raising this year while she tended to Gary, but she’s managed to collect $1,300 in just two weeks. She’s $700 away from her fundraising goal to help Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“They never rushed us,” said Dougan of Gary’s care team. “They always answered all of our questions, they always explained everything so when we left here, we were comfortable.”

She says that’s a driving motivation this year as her husband and life partner continues his treatment at Smilow.

“I will be absolutely thinking of my husband the whole twenty-five miles that I’m doing,” said Dougan. “I’m proud of him for fighting the way he has.”

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

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