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With the added challenge of COVID-19, this year’s ride theme, “Unstoppable,” was particularly appropriate for riders such as Swani Schoberth-Wyckoff, RN, North Pavilion OR. 

Cancer – and COVID – are no match for Closer to Free riders

With a growing number of people getting the COVID-19 vaccine this past spring, Closer to Free ride organizers decided they could hold this year’s event in-person.

Then the COVID Delta variant tried to jam a stick in the spokes.

With guidance from Yale New Haven Health’s medical team, organizers decided a couple months before the Sept. 11 ride to make it virtual, for the second year.

That didn’t deter participants; after all, these are people who know a thing or two about switching gears. Nearly 2,000 riders from 30 states (including Hawaii) and England embraced the virtual format. They rode their own routes to rack up the miles, raising more than $2 million for research and care at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.

As in years past, many Yale New Haven employees were part of this virtual peloton, including a number of cancer survivors. Thanks to the riders, volunteers, organizers and supporters who made this year’s CTF ride a huge success!  



Cancer survivors Mary Tirozzi, former YNHH employee (left), and Sunshine Sousa, RN, Infusion, were back in the saddle for CTF this year.


The “Smilow salute” is a beloved CTF tradition in which riders pass Smilow Cancer Hospital, cheered on by patients, family members and employees. Cancer survivors Heather Gagnon, lead consultation intake coordinator, Radiation Oncology, and Sunshine Sousa, RN, were among many who participated in the socially distanced version of the Smilow salute for this year’s virtual ride.