×

Shutesbury couple gets touching homecoming as coast-to-coast bike ride for their late son nears end

  • Bill Tobey, of Amherst, from left, Clif Read, of Shutesbury, and Mark Protti, of Shutesbury, arrive in Leverett Center, where they were greeted by a group of bicyclists, Wednesday, after riding in C2C4Charlie, a benefit for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of Read's son, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Arleen Read, of Shutesbury, arrives in Leverett, where she, her husband Clif, and other riders were greeted by a group of bicyclists, Wednesday, after riding in C2C4Charlie, a benefit for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of Read's son, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bill Tobey, of Amherst, left, and Clif Read, of Shutesbury, arrive in Leverett, where they were greeted by a group of bicyclists, Wednesday, after riding in C2C4Charlie, a benefit for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of Read's son, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clif Read, left, is greeted by Ken Holt in Leverett, Wednesday, after riding in C2C4Charlie, a benefit for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of his son, Charlie, who died a year ago. Both live in Shutesbury. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Susie Mosher, of Shutesbury, reads and holds a sign while waiting for Shutesbury residents Clif and Arleen Read, of Shutesbury, to arrive in Shutesbury Center after riding in C2C4Charlie, a cross-country bicycle ride to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie Read, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Arleen Read, right, is greeted by Lauren Holt, left, in Leverett, Wednesday, after riding in C2C4Charlie, a benefit for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of her son, Charlie, who died a year ago. Looking on are Lynmarie Thompson and John Buonaccorsi. All live in Shutesbury. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of bicyclists applaud as Julie Kumble, of Montague, arrives in Leverett after riding in C2C4Charlie, a benefit for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of Charlie Read, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Elaine Puleo, right, Helen Ann Sephton, second from right, and others, watch for Shutesbury residents Clif and Arleen Read, of Shutesbury, to arrive in Shutesbury Center after riding in C2C4Charlie, a cross-country bicycle ride to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie Read, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Helen Ann Sephton, front, of Shutesbury, and others applaud Wednesday as Clif and Arleen Read, of Shutesbury, arrive in Shutesbury Center after riding in C2C4Charlie, a cross-country bicycle ride to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie Read, who died a year ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clif and Arleen Read, of Shutesbury, front, arrive in Shutesbury center, Wednesday, after riding in C2C4Charlie, a cross-country bicycle ride to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie Read, who died a year ago at 16. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Arleen Read, second from left, gets a hug from Helen Ann Sephton as her husband, Clif Read, right, hugs Colleen Kelley upon their arrival in Shutesbury Center Wednesday after riding in C2C4Charlie, a cross-country bicycle ride to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie Read, who died a year ago. All live in Shutesbury. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Arleen Read, of Shutesbury, second from left, hugs Bill Tobey, of Amherst, as her husband, Clif Read, right, hugs Sean Meyer, of Shutesbury, upon their arrival in Shutesbury Center Wednesday after riding in C2C4Charlie, a cross-country bicycle ride to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie Read, who died a year ago. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For The Recorder
Thursday, August 10, 2017

SHUTESBURY — It was the kind of homecoming that made Clif and Arleen Read cry and smile at the same time.

After riding nearly 3,000 miles across the country in honor of their son who died last year from epilepsy, the Shutesbury couple and rest of the C2C4Charlie biking team rolled into their hometown Wednesday greeted by cheering community members holding “You Did It!” signs and the “Rocky” theme song blaring in the background.

The Reads, along with five family members and friends, stopped in Shutesbury as part of the last leg of their coast-to-coast bike ride that ends Saturday in Boston. They rode about 70 miles a day since they started on June 18, raising almost $40,000 thus far for the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of their son, Charlie, who died last August from a seizure. He was 16.

Before they made it to Shutesbury, the team stopped by the First Congregational Church of Leverett, where 12 other bikers joined them for the day’s final journey to the Shutesbury town center.

After exchanging hugs and tears, Clif held his hands up and shouted, “Hey, who wants to go do a hill?” The group, surrounded by a police escort, then made their way uphill and through S-curves to end up in Shutesbury. That’s where they were greeted by about 20 community members who held signs, pumped their fists in the air and cried.

Elaine Puleo, a community member and friend, helped organize the day’s events. She said it was important to greet them because they were part of the community.

“Nobody wants that to happen to their child,” Puleo said. “There’s lots of love and lots of caring here today.”

Seeing everyone come together to greet them made Arleen and the other riders emotional. Arleen called Shutesbury the best community in the world.

“We went to so many places and met so many people, but there is no place like this community,” Arleen said. “This is the community that has had our back since the day Charlie died.”

Charlie was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was an infant. He only suffered from a few seizures in his lifetime until last year when he experienced sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

Charlie was born in 2000 in Northampton and went to Shutesbury Elementary School and Amherst Regional Middle and High Schools. He played baseball and hockey. When he was 11 years old, he became the youngest person to ride the entire Tour de Quabbin, a 70-mile ride around the Quabbin Reservoir.

Ayres Hall, Clif’s cousin, said Charlie always had a smile on his face and he had a way of brightening people’s lives.

“I believe he came to this world to show people how to bring out the best in everyone else,” Hall said.

Riding from coast to coast was always a dream of the Reads and their friends. Even though Charlie could not be there with them, they knew it was a good way to honor him after his death.

“We had planned on doing this for years,” rider Sara Aierstruck said. “It’s always been a dream, and it seemed like a good way to honor Charlie after he died.”

The riders started in June at the Pacific Ocean in Washington state, where they dipped their back wheels. They will complete their journey on Saturday in Boston, where they will dip their front wheels in the Atlantic Ocean.

Greeting everyone made Clif think of the message they took with them after being blessed at a local church: they do not ride alone.

The team was met by family members and friends along the way who would ride for a few miles or simply provide them with food and a place to stay. The most riders at one time was 15 in Glacier National Park in Montana.

“It is an overwhelming feeling,” Clif said. “This community supported us all throughout our journey. These are the people who emailed us, texted us, kept up with us on Facebook.”

Jen Dolan, a community member who rode with them Wednesday, said she thinks the world of the Reads and this is the least she can do.

“We want to let them know that there’s a community behind them,” Dolan said. “Their son is not forgotten.”