Successful weekend for D2R2, Wheeling for Healing rides (PHOTOS)

  • Wheeling For Healing participants sit down for lunch around noon on Sunday following the biking, walking and running events. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Bikers finish their route at Wedgewood Gardens during the 15th annual Wheeling For Healing. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Wheeling For Healing co-founder Howard Natenshon speaks toward the end of the 15th annual event. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Participants of the 5k on-foot route cross the finish line for the 15th annual Wheeling For Healing. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cyclist Mike Szteliga crosses the finish line at the 15th annual Wheeling For Healing event. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 8/21/2022 6:00:46 PM
Modified: 8/21/2022 5:57:13 PM

Between the annual Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée (D2R2) and Wheeling For Healing events, nearly 2,000 people biked around Franklin County for good causes over the weekend.

The D2R2, now in its 17th year supporting the Franklin Land Trust, brought a record-breaking “close to 1,700 riders” from all over the world to traverse a variety of routes on Saturday, according to Executive Director Mary Lynn Sabourin.

The 15th annual Wheeling For Healing ride, a Baystate Franklin Medical Center benefit event that started and ended at Greenfield’s Wedgewood Gardens, saw “probably close to 100” cyclists, walkers and runners take to 50-, 25- or 10-mile routes or a 5-kilometer on-foot route Sunday morning, according to Baystate Health Fundraising Events Manager Stephanie Johnson.

Despite the traditional gathering bringing a large amount of participants yearly, Sabourin said one of her favorite parts of this year’s ride was “seeing the returning faces and the smile on everyone’s face when they’re out there.”

“The riders had a fantastic time out there,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful group of riders.”

Overcast weather conditions Sunday morning ushered in a day of riding where “everything went smooth” for Wheeling For Healing, Johnson added.

“This is perfect,” she said minutes after the 25-mile ride began at 9:30 a.m. “It keeps it nice and cool, which is fantastic.”

Riders at each event voiced appreciation for the rural landscape and small-town charm signature to the region. The D2R2’s “Mystery Route,” revealed yearly on the day of the event, brought riders into Southern Vermont and down into Rowe for lunch at Pelham Lake, which turned out being a favorite part of the day for many cyclists, according to Sabourin. Participants of Wheeling For Healing voiced similar admiration for hidden-gem communities they had never before been introduced to.

“Riding through Bernardston to see all the beautiful homes, I’d never seen those,” said Amherst resident Rebecca Mazur, who participated in the 25-mile ride and said the route was “some of the best bike-riding in Western Massachusetts.”

Amherst resident Craig Kannel said he decided to detour through Leyden as part of his personal mission to bike through every town in the Pioneer Valley.

“It’s a beautiful route they have mapped out,” he added.

Organizers for both events said there would be no estimate for how much money was made by the end of the weekend. The D2R2 typically raises about $200,000 yearly for the Franklin Land Trust — which accounts for roughly one-fifth of the organization’s annual budget — “to benefit its future land conservation efforts,” according to Sabourin and a press release. Saturday’s total could surpass this average, considering this year was “shaping up to be their biggest fundraiser yet,” as articulated in the press release.

Meanwhile, Wheeling For Healing, which had raised roughly $538,000 over the last 14 years, had raised around $11,500 in online donations as of Sunday evening, according to the Wheeling For Healing website. This figure, Johnson noted, only accounts for a portion of funds raised and doesn’t include in-person donations.

Wheeling For Healing rider and co-founder Howard Natenshon said he is uplifted each year by how the event keeps giving to those who need it.

“It’s just been a wonderful cause,” he said. “It just brings the community together.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or

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