WALLINGFORD — For 17 years, the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine has held Coast to Coast for a Cause, a cross-country bike trip that students can participate in to raise money for charity.
This year, Wallingford native, Julia Neri, biked from Washington back to Connecticut with medical student Dustin Moore, who is from Berlin, New Hampshire, and dental student Brian Legato, from Colchester, Connecticut. Neri was the 2016 Lyman Hall High School valedictorian and aspires to one day be a pediatrician. All three will graduate in 2025.
The three raised over $16,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, a summer camp started by Paul Newman for children who are dealing with serious illnesses. Neri said they still have a little over $1,000 to process that was pledged through company match donations.
“UConn has actually for the past couple years been choosing the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and we love the organization and we wanted to continue raising money for the camp,” Neri said.
Moore said that it costs about $2,500 to send one kid to the camp.
“At the camp all of their medical needs are met by on-site staff, they have doctors and everyone they would need to deal with anything they need and also just having fun and doing all kinds of activities like any other kid would be able to do,” Moore said.
The trip started on June 6, in Anacortes, Washington. Carolyn Dallas, Neri’s mother, said the three had their bikes shipped to Washington.
“They really didn’t train for this because they were in medical school and had exams up until the week before they left, but they had their bikes shipped out to Seattle, Washington where they were put back together and then they flew out,” Dallas said. “In Acortes, Washington, which is right on the water there, they dipped their rear tire in the water, in the Pacific, and then they started their trek.”
The trip surpassed 3,000 miles and took the trio seven weeks and a day to complete. They biked through Montana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota and many other states. Dallas said they “pretty much followed the northern tier route.”
“So across Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and then into Canada,” Dallas said. “One day I think they actually did like 133 miles. A lot of days were between the 80 and 100 mile distance.”
The entire trip was self-funded by Moore, Neri and Legato, so when it came to sleeping, the three bikers camped out when they were out west and used Warm Showers, a free service where bicyclists open up their homes to those who are on bike tours. Moore said they stayed at hotels a couple of times.
They completed their journey at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on Tuesday after stopping at the UConn Health Campus in Farmington on Monday.
“I was just overwhelmed with so many different feelings of pride of wow we just accomplished this, relief that we’re finally home and just so much gratitude as well for all the people along the trip and along the way who helped us and opened up their homes to us,” Nerin said. “So it’s just really amazing to see all the people along the trip and how just generous people are.”
The bikers are still taking donations. To learn more, go to https://linktr.ee/C2C2022.