With the sound of thunder growling ominously in the background, the runners set off to complete their race with gusto.
Even in the overcast weather, Go the Distance for Scholars hosted its inaugural event in Woodbury on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The event consisted of a 5K run, a 5k walk, a senior walk, a 50-mile bike ride, a 25-mile bike ride, a 10-mile bike ride and a 5-mile bike ride.
Go the Distance for Scholars is a fundraising event that benefits the Woodbury Scholarship Fund and stemmed from the Ride for Rick Road Race.
Cam Gardella, president of the Woodbury Scholarship Fund, explained how everyone prepared for 10 to 11 months for this event, working with Lisa Moisan to transition the race from Ride for Rick to Go the Distance for Scholars.
Moisan, the creator of Ride for Rick and widow of Rick Moisan, explained that she picked the Woodbury Scholarship Fund to take over Ride for Rick because it is one thing in the community that has widespread effect.
She is a strong believer in education and anything to help kids is a good thing, she said.
Moisan said one of the most rewarding things was seeing students who received scholarships come back and work at the event and to see how they appreciated the support.
Gardella noted that this event has more volunteers than the prior golf fundraising event because it is based in the town of Woodbury and had a lot more constituent volunteers and community support.
Gardella also explained how the publicity for this event led to more people hearing about the Woodbury Scholarship Fund and understanding its mission.
Don Gamsjager has been involved in the event since the original Ride for Rick and is a recipient of the Woodbury Scholarship Fund.
"The most rewarding part is the smiling faces, something as simple as that, and the excitement of the event," said Gamsjager. "It's like a big party for a cause."
He was co-master of ceremonies with Teresa LaBarbera. LaBarbera is a Region 15 graduate of the nearby Middlebury-Southbury school district and the morning traffic reporter for News 8’s Good Morning Connecticut.
"It’s great to come back to my hometown area with so many supportive people," said LaBarbera. "It’s really an honor and I’m happy it’s for a good cause."
The Woodbury Scholarship Fund helps alleviate some of the financial stresses of higher education for students who want to attend college but need help with the cost.
Matt Morris volunteered at the event, making sure bicycles were all ready to race. He owns Bicycle Works in Middlebury and said he is pleased to give back to the neighborhood that supports him.
Seeing everyone come out and enjoy what they were doing and smiling even on a rainy day was one of the more rewarding parts of volunteering, he said.
Woodbury resident Paul Hinckley helped with the marketing and promotion of the event, creating posters, visiting bike shops and working with local businesses in Woodbury to maintain a sense of community.
Hinckley said that just being able to help and volunteer his time makes him feel good and that some students need help financially to go to college and even a little bit helps.
Hinckley said that the people volunteering at the event have a sense of camaraderie -- everyone is in it together and working toward the same goal.
The dedication and passion for a good cause united many this past Saturday, shining through the grey sky like a ray of sunshine.
One can truly see how far Going the Distance for Scholars has gone already.