Local Cancer Support Group’s First Fundraiser Features Rail Trail & Ale

Participants in the NEKCAN Rail, Trail & Ale 5k fun-run/walk stride through the cancer support fundraiser near Goodfella's Restaurant in Danville on Saturday, May 7, 2022. (Contributed Photo)

DANVILLE — A newly-formed nonprofit to support local people with cancer stepped up its fundraising efforts Saturday with the inaugural NEKCAN Rail Trail & Ale 5k, raising over $4,000.

NEKCAN is an acronym for Northeast Kingdom Cancer Action Network, which recently secured status as a 501c3 nonprofit, making all donations to support its mission tax-deductible.

The network was formed by Northeast Kingdom residents to serve as a resource to help people who have financial needs while they are battling cancer. Many in the new organization have lost loved ones to cancer and have volunteered for years to support the annual Caledonia County Relay For Life,

The group’s wish is to raise funds locally and have those funds support area residents who are dealing with cancer diagnoses and treatment, said Mike Barrett, president of NEKCAN.

It was the loss of Barrett’s mother, Janette, to cancer in 2007 that spurred his involvement in cancer awareness and fundraising, first through the Relay for Life and now with NEKCAN. He said he made a promise to his mother to get involved in the fight against cancer.

In an earlier Caledonian-Record story on the organization, Dan Copp, of Danville, shared how he came to realize that it was time that the area had a resource where money could be raised and distributed locally to cancer patients in need. Copp is a cancer survivor with parents who had it; his father died from Melanoma.

The first two people Copp contacted were Barrett and Paul Ward. He also reached out to Lamoille Area Cancer Network for guidance because the organization has a similar mission to the local-support focus that he had in mind.

“In a matter of months we went from trying to figure out what we were doing, to reality,” Copp said last month. “As soon as word got out, people wanted to jump on board! We have a great committee of volunteers and nine people on a Board Of Directors that were willing to jump in on this dream come true! I couldn’t be more excited! We have many fundraisers lined up throughout the year.”

First up for fundraisers was Saturday’s Rail Trail & Ale. The name of the event comes from its location and access to beer.

The event begins and ends at Goodfella’s Restaurant in Danville. The restaurant is located next to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, an all-season recreational trail.

The sky was clear and the temperatures were ideal for an outdoor event Saturday, and the number of participants exceeded expectations.

Barrett said the group’s event organizers were pleased with the turnout for the inaugural event. “If we had 100 participants they would have been dancing in the street and we had 167,” said Barrett.

At $25 per registration, the event drew over $4,000 to support local cancer outreach.

“It was awesome,” said Barrett. “We had a very enthusiastic crowd; spirits were really high and they were really excited to be a part of it.”

Walkers, joggers and runners left Goodfella’s and made their way to the trail, heading east toward St. Johnsbury. After about 2½ kilometers they turned around and headed back to the restaurant, collecting a commemorative glass from which to drink beer or root beer.

Barrett was there but was unable to take part on the course because of a knee injury.

“I couldn’t do the rail or the trail, but I definitely did the ale,” he said.

The event will return next year, he said. It’s a good trail and Goodfella’s is supportive. “We were happy to support a local business, and they were ecstatic to have us there,” said Barrett. “This will be a nice continued relationship.”

NEKCAN is promoting its next fundraising event, the Garand Strong Cornhole Tournament, on May 22 at the Moose Lodge in St. Johnsbury. It’s named “in loving memory of Jenn Garand,” notes NEKCAN’s social media space. More information is available on the group’s Facebook page.

The NEKCAN website (https://www.nekcan.org/) offers more information and an opportunity to donate money to support people of the Northeast Kingdom battling cancer.

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