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New Hampshire man’s bike trek raises funds for veterans, first responders

The Winchester Star - 5/4/2018

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The temperature was pushing 90 degrees Thursday as Jerry LaChance pedaled his way toward Winchester.

The 71-year-old cyclist had no complaints, though.

“I’m having a good day,” LaChance said. “The wind is at my back, and I haven’t hit any hills since leaving Fredericksburg [earlier in the day].”

The resident of Sandown, N.H., is about midway through an East Coast ride to raise money for Project Hero, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping and bringing awareness to veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

As of Thursday, LaChance was a third of the way to his $25,000 fundraising goal.

LaChance is a healthy military veteran and volunteer firefighter who spends a lot of time helping his brothers and sisters in arms.

“I go to the VA [Veterans Affairs hospital] in Manchester [N.H.] and help out quite a bit,” he said during a telephone interview Thursday.

This is the third time LaChance has traversed the East Coast to raise money for veterans and first responders.

His latest journey began April 10 in Florida. From Miami, LaChance biked south to Key West, Fla., then turned around and started riding north.

He started out averaging 70 to 80 miles a day. That has since been reduced to about 50.

“It’s a little hilly up here,” LaChance said.

He’s using his own money to cover expenses during the nearly six-week journey.

“None of the money I collect can fund my ride,” LaChance said. “It all goes to the veterans.”

Fortunately, lodging is rarely a concern. Every night but two, LaChance said, he has been housed in fire halls along his route.

Thursday night, he was a guest at the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Company. When he rolls into Winchester today at the height of Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival hoopla, Millwood Station Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company Chief Scott Miller has told LaChance to give him a call.

LaChance said he doesn’t mind finding accommodations along the way because he always believes everything will work out fine.

“Is the sun on my right when I’m riding? If it is, then I’m OK,” he said. “People are very, very wonderful.”

During a previous ride in 2016, LaChance said he developed a leg infection while passing through the tiny town of Stedman, N.C., and was advised by doctors to stay off his bike.

Stedman is just 22 miles from the Army’s military base at Fort Bragg, N.C. When soldiers heard that LaChance was raising money for veterans but couldn’t pedal, four of them volunteered to push him and his bike 25 miles to his next destination.

LaChance said he rides for the people who dedicate their lives to helping others.

Earlier this week in Richmond, he saw an inscription on a veterans memorial in Richmond and was inspired to write it down.

“Tell all who enjoy freedom of the deeds and sacrifices for freedom to flourish,” LaChance quoted.

LaChance’s journey is scheduled to end May 19 in Pittsburg, N.H., at the border with Quebec, Canada.

Along the way, he’s planning to make a very special stop.

His daughter, Mary LaChance, lives in Martinsburg, W.Va., and he plans on staying with her this weekend.

That means Jerry LaChance will be there Sunday when his 6-year-old granddaughter, Emily Hall, takes her first communion.

“I hope my wife sent down some nice clothes for me,” he said. “What I’m wearing is getting pretty thin, and you don’t want to see me in church wearing spandex.”

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For updates on LaChance’s ride, visit facebook.com/JerryRide. Donations to his Project Hero campaign may be made at r2r.convio.net/goto/jerrysride.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

 
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