Courtesy of Jared Pendak
Valley News Staff Writer
Randolph -- When Vermont Technical College cross country coach Bob Dunkle learned his Green Knights were holding their first-ever home meet, he implemented a 5-kilometer "citizen race" to precede the meet as a fundraiser for the team. After the devastation brought to the area by Tropical Storm Irene, those plans extended to the broader community.
Half of the proceeds from yesterday's citizen race will be donated to an organization involved with local flood relief efforts, Dunkle said.
"We initially wanted it as a fundraiser (for the team only), but this made a lot more sense," Dunkle said. "We all want to help out any way we can."
With registration and ribbon presentations set up at the Three Stallion Inn, the course traversed parts of Montague Golf Course, Stock Farm Road and nearby wooded trails.
Two dozen people signed up for the citizen race; most were either directly affected by the flood or close with people who were.
Michael Fiorillo, of Brookfield, Vt., is a middle school science and social studies teacher in Tunbridge. He ran yesterday's race in hopes of supporting a pair of colleagues whose neighborhood was ravaged by the storm.
"They're on River Road in South Royalton, where there were houses that had water go halfway up the first floor," said Fiorillo, who taught Dunkle's children at Tunbridge Central School. "There's a campground there, and there were mobile homes that got completely washed away. I was over in that area on Wednesday, and there were hundreds of people hauling out mud and cleaning up."
Fiorillo's racing partner, Tim Hogeboom, had his own flooding issues to deal with. He made the 50-mile trip from Walden, Vt., to aid the cause.
"For this, I would have driven 100 miles," Hogeboom said. "Just seeing what people are going through is unbelievable, including myself to a degree. My cellar drain got clogged and there was about four inches of water in my basement. My neighbor had to let me use his pump and help me get it all out. That wasn't pretty, but obviously that's nothing compared to what a lot of people (have experienced.)"
Volunteer finish-line judge Tom Borgos said many of the homes in his Bethel Gilead neighborhood were virtually destroyed, while another finish-line worker, Regina Beidler, co-owns an organic dairy farm in Randolph Center that didn't sustain much damage. Beidler's husband, Brent, was busy yesterday helping another nearby agricultural facility, Liberty Hill Farm in heavily affected Rochester, clean out rubble leftover from the disaster.
"We know the Kennets (the family that owns Liberty Hill Farm's owners) and they have an awful lot of cleanup, especially the buildings and corn fields," Beidler said. "There's a lot of debris in lot of different places. The farming community around here has really had to come together to help each other out."
Randolph High coach Ginny Richburg was excited that her fourth-year team was hosting its first major invitational meet yesterday afternoon. Richburg, who helped Dunkle and others organize the citizen race in the morning, has also developed ways for the Galloping Ghosts to help in the flood relief effort.
"We're doing something called the two-can drive, where we're going to have athletes politely knock on people's doors and say they're responsible for gathering two cans of food (to donate to flood victims)," Richburg said.
"Then they're going to have to run with one in each hand so that they still get a workout out of it."
Richburg, whose husband, Larry, is a select board member in Randolph, said some of the stories she's been hearing have been difficult to listen to.
"My daughter is a teacher in Roxbury and she knows someone whose property was submerged in four feet of water," he said. "They lost two lawnmowers, freezers and 10 cords of wood. And that's just one person.
"There are a lot of neighborhoods around that rely on bridges to get to and from their homes. A lot of those bridges were taken out and they're very expensive to replace."
Though the returns from yesterday's citizen race are expected to be modest, race participant and volunteer Sue Jacobs said even small gestures are critical.
"The most important thing is awareness and that people are doing what they can," said Jacobs, 52, who won her age group with a finish time at about 31 minutes. "I think a lot people don't really know how much people are hurting on the outskirts of (Randolph). My house is on a hill, but to see what people are going through … It really makes me taken aback and tearful, to have the economy the way it is and have people isolated in their homes.
"On top of everything else, we're about to go through six months of winter. The question is, 'How are we going to do it?' "
Three Stallion Inn 5K Collegiate Results:
GMC 21 (1,2,5,6,7)
SVC 47 (4,8,10,12,13)
VTC 52 (3,9,11,14,15)