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Bristol Stampede hits $2M milestone

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Posted on August 2, 2018 |
By Christopher Ross



stampede1702.jpg
LISA O’CONNOR, LEFT, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northern New England, celebrates the Three Day Stampede’s milestone of $2 million raised by presenting a plaque to event organizers David and Bonita Bedard and Beth Morrissey. Below, supporters show off their “Stampede Man” tattoos, which were based on the fundraising logo designed by Sheri Bedard Bannister. Photos supplied by Three Day Stampede

BRISTOL — More than 20 years ago, when Sheri Bedard Bannister designed a logo for her family’s annual fundraiser, the Three Day Stampede Toward a Cure for Cystic Fibrosis, she had no idea that dozens of people in her community would one day get it tattooed on their bodies.

It has come to be known as the “Stampede Man,” though it’s neither man nor woman. Inspired by Japanese writing’s gentle curves, a lithe human figure seems to hold the sun above its head. Or make a gift of it. An arc sweeping from that sun suggests movement and progress.

“The logo was really about creating our own language around this thing we didn’t understand,” Bannister said. “The sun is meant to represent the cure (for cystic fibrosis), but it’s also something more. It’s about hope and community and all the pieces that go into that.”

Last weekend, that community, which for 28 years has defined itself with hope, achieved an extraordinary milestone: $2 million raised for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“It happened somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 o’clock Friday afternoon,” said Stampede co-organizer Bonita Bedard.

No one jumped out of a cake or set off fireworks. Local radio station WOKO, one of the Stampede’s most steadfast supporters, didn’t interrupt its broadcast with announcements or fanfare. A plaque and a few photographs commemorate the day, but for the most part the 150 dedicated volunteers spread out across Mount Abraham Union High School’s athletic fields kept right on working.

$2,000,000 became $2,000,001.

The three-day lawn sale, including books and furniture, raised $54,784 this year; the silent auction $30,500; sponsorships $25,675. By Sunday the weekend total stood at $127,000 and the grand total at $2,067,000.

That night a photograph appeared on the Stampede’s Facebook page: a Celtic knot of arms and wrists, plus one thumb, each sporting a Stampede Man tattoo.

“I never thought I’d be someone to get a tattoo,” Bedard said. “But the Stampede Man and everything it stands for has become such a part of my DNA that it might as well be on my body, too.”

The first person to get the tattoo was Bedard’s granddaughter Kayla, who as an infant was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. Other family members followed, then members of the community.

A PORTION OF the Three Day Stampede Toward a Cure for Cystic Fibrosis volunteers poses for a photo during this past weekend’s 28th-annual event, but organizers acknowledged that it was difficult to get 150 of them in one place at one time. 

Photo supplied by Three Day Stampede

At first it seemed strange to think of so many people wearing the logo, Bannister said, but she views it the same way she views the Stampede itself.

“For a while it felt like a family event, but it has gone beyond that,” she said. “My family may have started the Stampede, but we don’t take ownership of it. It’s become a part of the community now.”

Bedard continues to be astounded by that community, not only for its support but also for the way it grows and evolves.

“Every year young people come out to be part of the volunteer community, and they learn something about commitment and service,” she said. “The kids work really hard. They’re amazing.”

Next year, the fundraising will begin anew. Donation drop-offs will be announced, events scheduled. And the Stampede Men will reappear — on posters, T-shirts and summertime skin — a simple and elegant reminder of a community’s fierce love and dedication.

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected]

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