200 cyclists raise at least $39,000 for BFMC cancer patients

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan
Walter Goodridge of Conway rides in the Wheeling for Healing.

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Walter Goodridge of Conway rides in the Wheeling for Healing. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — Over two days this weekend, Walter Goodridge of Conway cycled 112 miles in the D2R2 race in Deerfield and rode 55 miles the next day from Greenfield to Wendell and back for the Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Wheeling for Healing.

Ten days earlier, Goodridge finished treatment for indolent lymphoma, a slow-growing blood cell tumor in his bone marrow at Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s oncology department.

“I’m here because the oncology department is so great,” Goodridge said. “I wanted to do this ride because I had such a fantastic experience in the oncology department.”

Over four weeks, Goodridge would go to the Greenfield hospital for immunotherapy, a treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer. Alongside other patients, Goodridge could get a free massage by a volunteer, Greenfield massage professional Heather Creek. Musician Rosie Caine of Greenfield played the harp.

“We are so lucky to have a hospital where the people there are without exception friendly,” Goodridge said.

The Wheeling for Healing event is dedicated to making sure all cancer patients receive the kind of care and comfort Goodridge praises.

The hospital held its seventh annual cycling event to raise money for the oncology department. The ride starts and finishes at the White Eagle Polish Picnic Ground in Greenfield.

Wheeling for Healing started as an idea between Bruce Mainville, the lead nuclear technologist at Baystate Franklin who used to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge, one of the nation’s original fundraising bikeathons, and his friend and colleague, Dr. Howard Natenshon. For Pan Mass, riders must raise a minimum of $4,300 to compete in the event, which raises money to support the Jimmy Fund.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we do it for our hospital?’ We had an enormous need and a wonderful place to ride,” Natenshon said.

In 2008, the hospital held its first bike ride.

The bike benefit offers four courses. The three-mile flat ride, the second 10-mile route along the Greenfield Bike Trail, the 25-mile ride through Bernarston, Gill and Turner Falls, and the 50-mile route going into the hills of Wendell.

About 200 riders turned out for Sunday morning with more people participating in the 50-mile route than ever before, Susan Eckstrom, a volunteer said.

Riders raised at least $39,000, the same as last year. Baystate Foundation officials were still determining the actual amount as of press time.

“The money supports patients as they’re going through therapy and to enhance their comfort,” said Naomi Bolognani, the oncology program manager. “It’s all about patient comfort.”

This year’s funds will likely pay for new furniture to replace the old dilapidated furniture in the department, Bolognani said.

Last year, proceeds from Wheeling for Healing were used to buy new infusion chairs for patients undergoing chemotherapy at Baystate Franklin.

The department was also able to offer financial assistance to patients, covering some expenses — such as wigs and some medications — that were not covered by the patients’ health insurance and to buy a new waiting room TV with a special CARE channel, so patients can enjoy calming views of scenes from nature, accompanied by soft, soothing music.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

(Editor’s note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)

Great work, Walter! For those who don't know him well, may I say that "indolent lymphoma" is the ONLY way that Walter and the word indolent could ever possibly be connected. Much love, Paul

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