Highways, byways play host to Gran Fondo

The annual fundraiser for the Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center special needs fund is expected to top last year's $15,000 total.


WALLA WALLA -- A record number of participants -- on horses, Harleys, bicycles or just their good old-fashioned feet -- rode, cycled, walked, jogged, ate and drank in record numbers at this weekend's Providence St. Mary Cancer Regional Center Gran Fondo.

"This is our sixth year and now when you say Gran Fondo people know what you mean," event coordinator and community resource nurse Mardi Hagerman said.

For those who still don't know about the cancer center's version of a Gran Fondo -- which loosely translates to the great journey -- their rendition is a multifaceted one-day event in which participants can gallop on a horse down a trail by Bennington Lake, rumble on a motorcycle down U.S. Highway 12, huff and puff a bicycle along Stateline Road and stop for a winery tour or two, and either jog or walk just over four miles.

And for the second year straight, the event offered a more sedentary choice for participants who prefer pushing their palates more than pedals.

Downtown Pairing On Main sold out this year, as 100 people bought tickets to sample foods at five local eateries and wineries as part of the Gran Fondo.

All together, Gran Fondo raised about $15,000 last year and is expected to raise even more this year for the cancer center's special needs fund, which helps cancer survivors to pay for the things health plans don't cover. Those items often include fuel, groceries, wigs and, too often, medications that aren't covered, Hagerman said.

"I really want to compliment the downtown merchants. Even in a tough year, everybody just stepped forward and said they would help the cancer center," Hagerman said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.


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