Stampede nets $122,000 for CF and brings wider benefits to community

BRISTOL — What began as a family lawn sale in 1991 has now raised close to $2 million for cystic fibrosis research.
This year’s Three Day Stampede toward the Cure for Cystic Fibrosis raised $122,000 according to the initial tally, said long-time Stampede organizer Bonita Bedard. That number is expected to climb somewhat once the final tally is completed within a month or two, said Bedard, adding, “It’s never too late to give.”
All Stampede proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation towards research.
Last year the Three Day Stampede netted $123,458.
In the 26 years since organizing their first cystic fibrosis (CF) event, a walkathon in 1990, Bedard and her husband, David, have raised a grand total of $1.793 million to combat the disease — and have engaged an entire community.
“It is a unique event,” said Executive Director of the Northern New England Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Lisa O’Connor.
“We don’t have another Stampede anywhere in the country for the CF Foundation,” O’Connor continued. “And the Stampede is extra unique because of the fact that — and this is what we are so grateful for — it is their event, they do everything for this event from soup to nuts, they do not want it to cost the foundation any money. They don’t even allow me to present them with a plaque because they want the money and the resources from the plaque to go to research. They’re just so very laser focused; they just want to eradicate this disease. And they have this whole infrastructure that they have created — this amazing family, their amazing friends, and then this amazing community and this network of people and resources that they’ve developed over the years.”
This year’s stampede, held July 29-31 at the Bristol Recreation Field, included a giant yard sale under 30 tents, a used book sale, a silent auction, a bake sale, a walk-a-thon and a five-kilometer run. Among the top fundraisers this year were the yard sale, which brought in $56,669 and the silent auction (featuring everything from a used car donated by G. Stone Motors to a signed photo of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia), which brought in $24,371.
But for Bedard and many others, the fundraising figures aren’t the only measure of the longtime event’s success. As proud as she is of the money raised, she is quite possibly proudest of the community’s generosity and participation in making the event happen so successfully, year after year.
The Stampede typically involves a core crew of around 25 who organize the event and more than 100 volunteers who staff the event over the weekend. But by the time you count every lawn sale item dropped off, every pie baked, and other ways of contributing to the event, the number of volunteers grows into the thousands, Bedard estimates.
“This is a community event. It would never happen if it wasn’t for the community,” she said.
Another volunteer, overhearing the conversation adds, “We had lines at the last drop-off that were 30 cars long. The last two drop-offs there were at least 30 cars waiting consistently for like two hours.”
“The Stampede renews my faith in humanity every single year,” said Bedard.
The spirit of community generosity is integral to how the event came to be.
When the Bedards’ granddaughter Kayla Flint was born with cystic fibrosis in 1989, they knew they wanted to do something. A year later, they organized a CF walkathon. The year after that they held a family garage sale to add to the walkathon earnings, almost as an afterthought. And suddenly, people driving by the garage sale wanted to help.
“My father-in-law died and so the boys (Dave Bedard and his brother Brad) decided to go ahead and have a lawn sale and donate the money to CF,” Bedard said. “And so they put up the signs and I was actually at a trade show in San Francisco and I get this phone call that night from David and he says, ‘I don’t know what this means but it means something. We set up all of Dad’s stuff and we put a sign up that said everything’s going to go to CF.’ And Dave said people started going home and bringing back stuff for us to sell.
“So it literally was a community event from the very first moment of its inception. They were just going to sell stuff and send the check off with the walkathon money. But the people who stopped were like, ‘No, no. I’ve got stuff. I’m going to go get it.’”
Bedard is also proud of the many ways the Stampede has embraced the community’s young people.
“We have several people who started coming to the Stampede when they were little kids who now run a tent because that’s what happens. They learn from the ground up. They have this whole background. I have written countless recommendation letters for people when they go to college and for scholarships. I can’t even tell you how many.”
She tells the story of one young man who at age 12 was struggling in life and school. The boy signed up for a few hours of volunteering and then kept coming back the whole weekend. A week later the boy’s mother told Bedard that helping at the Stampede was “the best thing that had ever happened to their son.”
Bedard continued: “He felt valued. He was respected. He worked so hard. And that person comes back every single year, and he has just graduated from college.”
For volunteer Sara Hanf, who herself has CF, the Stampede has offered a way to become part of a new community and to make peace with her disease.
Hanf moved to Lincoln from a suburban New York community about 12 years ago. And after avoiding the Stampede for years, finally decided to begin participating.
“It seemed I had spent my whole life, running from and hiding my CF. I just wanted to be me, and recognized for my abilities, not my disease,” Hanf wrote in an email to the Independent. “The first few years I lived here I avoided the Stampede. I didn’t want anything to do with it. But year after year the Stampede kept coming, and eventually I started shopping there, and then I started volunteering there.
“Being around the Bedards and the community of support and encouragement they created was healing and empowering for me. I saw a family that gathered around Kayla and loved her and fought with her to overcome all of the challenges that come with CF. I realized how powerful that kind of love can be. The Stampede is so much more than a huge yard sale. It is a powerful force that drew me in and gave me strength and courage to be happy with myself because I have CF, not despite it.”
For 2016, one final note on how the Stampede has been successful.
When Bedard’s granddaughter was born in 1989, her life expectancy was estimated at 18-21 years. As research — funded in part by Stampede dollars — has brought more treatment options, life with CF has become more manageable.
Next week, Kayla, now 27, will be getting married.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected]

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