This year’s AngelRide will be significant for Christi Burton not only because it marks her 10th year of participation, but because she has a unique chance to directly affect a Guilford family with 100 percent of the funds she began raising last month.
Earlier this year, the Guilford resident had already raised the amount needed to participate in her leg of the iconic bike ride, which heads out of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford on May 29 to benefit programs assisting kids with life-threatening diseases.
As of last month, with encouragement from Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Christi began targeting additional fundraising which will be distributed directly to help the Guilford family of seven year-old Chloe Mason-Mann. Chloe, who has Down syndrome, is now fighting acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).
“She’s currently undergoing chemotherapy and will be getting treatment for the next two to three years,” says Christi. “I ride to honor Chloe, and all proceeds raised will be used to ease the financial burden that the family will have to endure.”
In the past decade, with just support from friends and family, Christi has raised an estimated $30,000 to support the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp with her annual AngelRide effort. The camp gives kids with life-threatening diseases a chance to simply enjoy a wonderful summer camp experience and also provides for hospital outreach programs to enrich the lives of children undergoing treatment.
“It’s just a beautiful, happy place, where the intent is to have kids go be kids and try to forget that they’re sick for a week or two,” says Christi.
For her part, Christi has always been very grateful for the backing of those who’ve quietly supported her AngelRide fundraising efforts. But now, in an effort to assist Chloe and her family, she’s really working hard to seek support from as many members of the Guilford community as possible.
“Normally I would not make such a widespread effort to reach out, [as] I believe that the causes that we choose to support are an individual choice based on our own life experiences,” says Christi.
But, she adds, “as a mom of three boys, I shudder at the thought of what this family is going through. That’s why I’m reaching out more than I am normally comfortable doing. I don’t believe that there are too many higher missions in life than helping a child who is seriously ill living in our own town. A greater cause is hard to find.”
Christi is using the strength of her AngelRide effort and a “go-ahead” from the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to deliver any contributions she raises for Chloe directly to the Mason-Mann family. Checks made out to Chloe’s mom, Amy Mason-Mann, can be mailed to 245 Boston St., Guilford 06437 with “AngelRide” in the memo.
Other community efforts have been undertaken to assist the Mason-Mann family in its time of need, with many supporters rallying behind the family’s “Fight for Chloe” tagline. On March 24, many turned out for a community skate and silent auction event at East Haven’s Veterans Memorial Ice Rink.
Sadly, on March 25, Chloe was back in the hospital for a sedated MRI to address some unanticipated neurological symptoms, but bounced back to be with her family at Easter. Chloe is now getting closer to finishing up a second phase of chemo to more aggressively address her condition, after the first phase did not yield remission (follow www.facebook.com/fightforchloe for more family updates and news).
Christi got to know the Mason-Mann family because her son played hockey with Chloe’s big brother. Chloe, a Calvin Leete School student, also has a big sister who attends Baldwin Middle School. Christi learned of Chloe’s plight after she had wrapped up her first round of fundraising for the 2016 AngelRide.
“When I found out that Chloe had a form of cancer, I asked Hole in the Wall Gang if I could do some more fundraising on her behalf, and they didn’t hesitate for one second,” says Christi.
Christi didn’t hesitate to join AngelRide when she first learned about it 10 years ago.
“It’s only about 13 years old and it had kind of a grassroots beginning,” says Christi. “It’s named for girl named Angel and she had cancer. She’s always there when AngelRide leaves from the camp, every year. The spirit of that ride is just beautiful. It’s just whole bunch of goodness in one spot.”
Christi notes the cyclists are often sent off with a George Bernard Shaw quote that embodies the spirit of the ride, which states, “Life is no brief candle to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Christi says the feeling fueling the start of each AngelRide inspires her all year long, and helps motivate her as she trains to stay in shape with riding, spinning, and general exercise.
“My thought on that day is always, ‘I just have to remember this feeling,’ because if I do, I’ll always do it, if I physically can.”
AngelRide participants take on either a two-day, 135-mile ride (May 28 and 29) or a one-day, 50-mile ride (May 29). Christi rides 50 miles, but in earlier years often undertook much lengthier rides, such as the 190-mile Pan-Mass Challenge, for good causes (the challenge benefits work of the Dana Farber Institute).
“I’ve always ridden for a cause, ever since I was in my 20s,” says Christi, “but when we started a family, I think you focus more on the importance of children. And when I was trying to figure out which organization it made sense for me to support, it was a very easy decision to pick AngelRide—this is totally about kids.”
She also raises funds and rides as a member of Guilford-based Carl’s Crusaders, honoring Guilford Firefighter Carl Hubbard, who passed away from cancer at age 40 in 2012. Christi joins Carl’s Crusaders for the annual Smilow Cancer Center Closer to Free Ride each fall.
Since she began her effort to generate support for Chloe and family in early March, Christi says those she’s reached out to in this community have not let her down and have even thanked her for helping others.
“A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten from supporters is that people just think it’s a nice thing to do,” says Christi. “I think Guilford lends itself to people doing these types of things all the time, so I’m so happy I can do this. You read about these kinds of stories in Guilford a lot. It’s nice to be a part of this community.”