SAXTONS RIVER -- Actor John Wayne is credited with saying "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."
A cancer diagnosis is probably one of the scariest things an individual or family can experience, but 25 to 30 people are expected to participate in the Third Annual New Hampshire Ride for the Cure next month to benefit Susan G. Komen Vermont-New Hampshire. The event, slated for the Hillsborough County 4-H Foundation, in New Boston, N.H., on Aug. 30 is a preview of things to come -- the Fifth Annual Vermont Ride at the Green Mountain Horse Association in South Woodstock on Oct. 13 (Columbus Day). The Vermont ride generally attracts 100 to 125 participants.
Saxtons River resident Lois Steele Whidden, a three-time breast cancer survivor, will ride in the first event and is the chairwoman of the second one. The rides in New Hampshire and Vermont began in 2010 and the six since that time have generated more than $200,000 for the cause. Whidden said she usually does not take part in the Vermont ride because her duties as chairwoman require her undivided attention.
"The important thing to remember," Whidden said, "is that 75 percent of the monies we raise stays local. It's granted out to breast health organizations and programs in Vermont and New Hampshire annually. This past year, we granted $350,000 to 11 organizations in the two states. The other 25 percent of the money we raise goes to breast cancer research.
Both events are 10-mile pleasure rides that will award prizes for the top fundraiser (riders commit to raising a minimum of $250) and the pinkest horse in several categories in honor of breast cancer awareness. Breakfast and lunch options will be available at both rides. Anyone can register to sponsor riders.
Whidden, 70, said she took part in a Ride for the Cure in Barre, Mass., about six years ago and brought the idea back to Susan G. Komen Vermont-New Hampshire.
Riders may register and raise funds for either or both rides online at www.komenvtnh.org, and check out some photos from past events on the rides' Facebook pages, Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure VT and Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure N.H. For more information on the rides, the local affiliate, and breast cancer in general, visit the website or call 888-550-CURE.
"The rides really are quite the experience," Whidden said. "Both are in beautiful settings. The New Hampshire Ride is in high summer, which is always nice, and the Vermont Ride is smack in the middle of foliage season. Absolutely breathtaking."
Whidden -- who has gone into remission following each time she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, 2006 and 2012 -- said she is amazed at how much money the rides have raised during a recession.
Terry Farkas, who has been the executive director of Susan G. Komen Vermont-New Hampshire for about six months, said the rides in the neighboring states have flourished due to Whidden's efforts.
"She's a really amazing woman. She is very determined and does a lot for our cause, definitely," she said, adding that a handful of other breast cancer survivors typically attend the events. "It's inspiring."
Michael Hudson called Whidden a dynamo and said the rides have been a tremendous success over the years. He also said what makes Susan G. Komen for the Cure so special is that, unlike many other charities, its advertisements and personnel salaries are funded entirely by corporate sponsorships, as opposed to the donations it receives. Whidden said this is the reason she got started with the organization. She refused to be part of a charity where the needy suffered because the higher-ups were raking in "big, fat salaries."
The rides are especially close to Whidden's heart because she grew up in Alstead, N.H., and started horseback riding when she was 10 years old.
"It's a passion for me," he said. "I can't stop doing it."
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.