Harvey trots through Vt. for cancer research

ADDISON COUNTY — By now, Muffie Harvey is more than a week into the ride of her life. Or maybe it’s her mom’s life.
Carol Klein was first diagnosed with breast cancer when Harvey was 15 year old growing up in Connecticut. Eighteen years later, Klein was diagnosed again with cancer in her one remaining breast.
That experience led Harvey to vow that one day she would do something to help raise awareness about breast cancer. That day came last week, when Harvey and her six-year-old Appaloosa mare Molly embarked on a “Ride for the Cure,” traveling almost the length of the state of Vermont on horseback to raise money for breast cancer research.
Harvey, a Leicester resident, started out from her alma mater, Southern Vermont College in Bennington, on June 22, and rode through Manchester, Rutland, and Brandon before spending Monday night in West Salisbury. On Tuesday, Harvey and Molly road mostly back roads into downtown Middlebury before continuing on with the goal of hitting Vergennes by nightfall.
The ultimate goal was Burlington on Friday, where Harvey plans on riding straight up Church Street.
In keeping with the educational and awareness-raising theme of her ride, Harvey plans her “Campuses for Cancer” stops at Southern Vermont, the College of St. Joseph, and the University of Vermont.
As Molly happily munched grass on the Middlebury town green early Tuesday afternoon, Harvey said she was slightly ahead of schedule.
“It’s all about keeping Molly comfortable,” she said.
Harvey, a single mother of three teenagers, was irrevocably changed by her mother’s struggle with breast cancer. In the 1970s, it was much harder to survive the devastating disease.
“They found a lump and immediately scheduled her for surgery,” Harvey recounted. “They said they wouldn’t know how bad it was until they got in there. The doctor said, ‘If you wake up and there’s a small bandage, it went well. If there’s a big bandage, it didn’t go well.’ There was a big bandage.”
Harvey said her mother had a radical mastectomy. She was 47 years old. Not enough was known about breast cancer back then, and Harvey said the recovery was difficult.
“It wasn’t good,” she said. “The treatments available back then were nowhere near what is available today. I watched my mom struggle with her recovery and I made up my mind right then and there that someday, somehow, I would heighten awareness and raise money for breast cancer research.”
But it’s taken this long for all of the elements to come together to make a ride like this one feasible. Marriage, children, career, all of those life elements delayed Harvey’s fund-raising ride, as well as the most important requirements: the right horse.
“I didn’t have the right horse,” Harvey said of her previous horse, which had bad feet. “If you don’t have good feet, you don’t have a good horse.”
Enter Molly, who Harvey happened upon purely by accident, and it was kismet. Harvey is a trained veterinary technician and two years ago, her sister asked her to come out and do a veterinary check on a horse she was thinking of buying.
“So there was this little Appaloosa mare,” Harvey said, the smile evident in her voice. “I did the vet check and she was in good shape. But she found me, followed me all the way back to the fence, and I turned around and she looked me right in the eye, and I said, ‘So, you’re the one.’ And she was.”
Harvey bought Molly herself and worked with her. But another setback occurred last year when a neighbor’s pit bull attacked the horse and torn open her left shoulder. The dog and has since left town, Harvey said.
“He damn near killed her,” Harvey said. “It took her months and months to heal from that.”
Harvey is the kind of person who can’t be still for long. In addition to heading up the food service at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, she teaches physical education at the college. Harvey also coaches youth soccer and teaches kickboxing. For 10 years, she was director of sales and wedding planning at the Lilac Inn in Brandon.
Harvey grew up on horses, spending summers at the family farm in Stockbridge. She rode horses professionally in practically every discipline, including Western Pleasure and English.
Harvey is sporting a black shirt with bight pink lettering that read “2010 Ride for the Cure” in honor of cancer victims and survivors, which include her mom. Carol Klein, is now 82, a two-time cancer survivor.
“I’m excited. I hope to make it an annual event.” Harvey said. “There’s no stopping us this year.”
Harvey’s fund-raising ride will support the American Cancer Society and the Pink Ribbon Foundation, a Rutland-based agency that provides financial and logistical help to cancer victims. To support Harvey’s ride, donations can be made directly to the American Cancer Society or to the Pink Ribbon Foundation. For more information on the agencies, visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org, or the Pink Ribbon Foundation at www.reincarnationconsignment.biz. Harvey can be contacted at [email protected] or (802) 247-3615.
Harvey said on Tuesday she was gratified by the response she has had from people who have seen her during the ride and stopped to talk.
“One woman told me, ‘You motivated me to do a (fund-raising) walk for cancer,’” Harvey said.
More than halfway through her ride, Harvey was excited not just by the encouragement she got from those who saw her and donated to the two causes, but also because she knew that after she completes the trip she will have more time to work for the charities.
“That’s when we will start doing fund-raising with companies and go to big players,” she said.
Lee Kahrs is at [email protected].

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