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Sandown veteran, 70, reflects on 2,800-mile bike ride to help others

Union Leader Correspondent

May 30. 2018 10:37PM
Jerry LaChance is greeted by well-wishers as he completes his 40-day bicycle trip from Florida to Pittsburg, N.H. (Courtesy)

Jerry LaChance received support from fire and rescue personnel all along the East Coast during his recent bike ride, including the Colebrook Fire Department. (Courtesy)

SANDOWN — Jerry LaChance is glad to be home resting after his exhausting 2,800-mile bike ride from Florida to the Canadian border, but he has no regrets.

“On a scale of one to 10, it was at least a 15,” said the 70-year-old Vietnam Army veteran from Sandown whose 40-day cycling adventure began on April 10 in Key West, Fla., and ended May 19 in Pittsburg, N.H.

LaChance is a longtime member of the Sandown Fire Department who set out on a similar ride last year to raise money to benefit veterans. He collected about $25,000 last year, and while the final figures are still being nailed down, it appears he raised nearly $17,000 this year.

The ride benefited Project Hero, a national nonprofit organization that builds and provides adaptive bikes for veterans and first responders affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other injuries.

After his return, LaChance was given a welcome home reception hosted by the Sandown Firemen’s Association. He’s received other honors as well, including a commendation from Gov. Chris Sununu. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan also designated LaChance as her “Granite Stater of the Month” in April.

“Jerry LaChance has proven to be a shining example of how we can support our veterans, and he embodies the values and all-hands-on-deck spirit of the Granite State,” she wrote.

LaChance said his second ride was better than he expected despite some bumps.

“I certainly touched a lot of people this time,” he said.

The journey got off to a rough start after he arrived in Florida and learned that his bike was damaged and not usable. He had several bike offers and settled on a $4,000 bike donated by a retired lieutenant with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.

LaChance averaged about 70 miles a day and discovered that eating ice cream made him pedal faster.

After arriving in New Hampshire on his way to Pittsburg, LaChance made a stop at the VA Medical Center in Manchester where he volunteers on the chaplaincy team. He was greeted by a crowd of about 200 supporters who cheered him on, including patients, staff, and the Patriot Guard Riders.

“It was just wonderful,” he said of the time he spent shaking hands with the veterans.

LaChance collected donations along the way and spent his nights at fire stations on the bike route. He was also given fire service escorts as he made his way north. He thanked the many well-wishers and fire department personnel that lent a hand during his journey.

“It’s admirable that a 70-year-old guy is willing to do this and make this journey,” said Jon Goldman, Sandown’s EMS captain.

Goldman helped coordinate LaChance’s overnight stays and other aspects of the trip. He was also on hand in Pittsburg when LaChance rolled into town.

“As much as he talks about it as a fundraiser, it became a goodwill mission for veterans,” Goldman said.

LaChance isn’t sure what his future holds, but at the moment he’s not planning another trek up the East Coast.

“There certainly won’t be any 40-day trips in my future,” he said.

Sandown Veterans

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