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Couple's trek yields funds for local clinic

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Posted on September 21, 2017 |
By John Flowers



STARKSBORO — A Starksboro couple’s almost year-long trek from Addison County to Sao Paolo, Brazil, has raised $5,178 for the Open Door Clinic (ODC) of Addison County.

It was on Sept. 10, 2016, that ODC Communications Specialist Christiane Kokubo and her husband, Mount Abraham Union High School Spanish teacher Nathan Shepard, packed their car for a trip to Kokubo’s native Brazil. Both took sabbaticals from their respective workplaces to allow for a lengthy adventure, pausing to drink in the scenery and culture of such countries as Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cuba and Panama.

But the couple also wanted to make their trip educational and philanthropic.

Shepard got to fortify his knowledge of Spanish.

And they set a goal of raising $1 for each kilometer traveled, with proceeds going to the non-profit ODC, providing critical health care services to uninsured and under-insured Vermonters and to many migrant farm workers hailing from the countries the couple visited (primarily Mexico).

The couple ended up traveling 49,887 kilometers in 335 days. The $5,178 they have raised doesn’t add up to $1 per kilometer, but it’s not shabby at all. And the funds will be gratefully accepted by the ODC, which recently lost some significant federal grant funding. As reported last month in the Addison Independent, ODC leaders are trying to fill a $62,000 budget shortfall this year.

As of this week, the couple has received 67 donations coming from people living in 12 countries.

“Isn’t it amazing to think that people in so many different countries are supporting the ODC’s services for people living in Vermont?” Kokubo said of the international support.

And thankfully, at least one other person has taken a page out of the Kokubo-Shepard book by using travel as a fundraising tool for the ODC. South Starksboro resident Larry Jones recently raised more than $6,000 for the clinic through sponsorships for his 500-mile walk on El Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) in France and Spain.

“I was going to walk the Camino for fun and friendship, but it wasn’t supposed to be about me,” Jones said through emailed comments. “‘Who could benefit?’ I asked myself.  Why not some organization which benefits others, especially those who are least able to help themselves with serious matters?  I knew about ODC through the church I attend regularly, and so it was a good fit.  I emailed and spoke with (ODC Director) Heidi (Sulis) beforehand, to make sure this was okay, and then I posted a note on Facebook and made an announcement in church.  The results are due to the good work of ODC, not to anything I’ve done.”

People can continue to donate to the Kokubo/Shepard fund drive for ODC by logging onto from homeparacasa.com/challenge, or by sending their check to the Open Door Clinic, 100 Porter Drive, Middlebury, Vt., 05753.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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