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Give & Take: Power of Story Series

Erin Thompson

Give & Take is a monthly column that takes a look at the intersection of the for-profit and non-profit worlds and the overall role philanthropy plays in connecting people. Through our guest posts, we take a deeper dive into how the power of story can shape and strengthen these ties.


There are few moments in life that have the ability to take your breath away. I am parked on my bike along with hundreds of people in front of the Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. In front of me I see nurses and patients cheering and holding “thank you” signs. In the windows I see patients that are not able to go outside holding balloons and waving. As I look at these brave people in front of me, I take a deep breath, and so begins what proves to be the most rewarding day of my life, year in and year out.

Six years ago was the first time I experienced a death with someone I was close to. One of my best friends’ mom passed away from breast cancer in June 2010 and I was devastated. I felt the need to channel my feelings of despair into something positive. While I started doing this ride in memory of Joan Osinski, I unfortunately had to add another person who is close to my heart. My grandfather passed away from cancer two years ago. He lived with me for a few months before his passing and I never once heard him complain about his cancer and treatments. In fact, when he was diagnosed with stage 4 Cancer, he had simply been going for a routine cancer checkup. He was an incredibly brave man who fought a courageous fight!

Starting with its first ride in September 2011, Closer to Free, voted Connecticut’s best organized cycling event, is now an annual bike ride that offers bike routes ranging from 10 to100 miles, beginning in New Haven, Connecticut.

What I find most impressive about the organization is that every dollar raised supports patient care and research at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center. Each rider is required to raise a minimum of $500. My participation in the last five years has enabled me to raise close to $8,000. This year I’ve raised over $1,100, including a very generous $500 Corporate Match from Prosek Partners!  To learn more about how you can donate or volunteer visit the Closer to Free website.

I participate in this ride every year in the hope that one day we can find a cure for cancer and see an increase in survivors riding by my side. Since Closer to Free began, funds raised have benefited programs and initiatives including Advanced Cell Therapy, Survivorship and funding lab start-ups. Closer to Free supports a great cause and allows survivors, victims, families and friends a chance to come together and raise awareness and money for the treatment of cancer. 

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