Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Middlebury Mamas draw attention to gun safety

The Middlebury Mamas want to thank everyone in the community — friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers both near and far — who helped support us in our 200-mile “Reach the Beach” Ultra Ragnar Relay race last weekend. We also want to extend our gratitude to John Flowers and the editors of the Addison Independent for featuring our story in the Sept. 5 issue.
We are so proud to report that your generosity not only motivated us to reach the beach nearly two hours faster than the last time we raced this course, but helped us surpass our original fundraising goal of $3,000 to raise a total of $5,475 in support of Everytown for Gun Safety. We are deeply grateful for the love and support of everyone who contributed.
We know that many people gave to our cause because they, too, are concerned about the increasing incidence of mass shootings and gun violence in American schools and public spaces, and were perhaps also shaken by the averted incidents at Fair Haven High School and our own Middlebury Union Middle School.
During the Reach the Beach race, one of our Midd Mamas met a member of a team from Newtown, Connecticut, called “Dylan’s Wings of Change” — an organization sponsored by the Sandy Hook Promise. They were running in memory of Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old boy with autism who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. Their team, like our own, was enduring extreme physical exertion for a much larger purpose. And they, like us, are trying to right something that is wrong. The only difference is that we live in a place where it could have happened; they live in a place where it already has.
Nothing quite captures the resolve you feel after sharing a moment like this. All six of us Midd Mamas had elementary school-aged children when Sandy Hook happened. We had high schoolers when Parkland happened, and four of us had children at MUMS during last year’s scare. The truth is that our children and their peers have never enjoyed a childhood absent of this devastating possibility, and it feels more tangible now than ever before.
So last weekend, we ran our hardest. We ran with the hope and determination that we were doing something to help foster and motivate change. We raced with the hope that maybe we’ll be spared the opportunity to run in memory of one of our own.
Running 200 miles with five other people over a period of 33 hours teaches you a few things. Of course, the challenge demands perseverance, forcing you to temper your exertion to maintain your stamina for the longer haul. In that sense, running an Ultra Ragnar Relay is a lot like parenthood itself. But beyond that is the matter of just being a good teammate — celebrating and encouraging one another through runs, anticipating each other’s needs, empathizing with the inevitable pain, and being gracious in a tight shared space. In this sense, running an Ultra Ragnar Relay is like being a good neighbor.
We know our community is filled with good neighbors — some who own guns and some who don’t. And we truly believe that all of us can work together toward a shared goal of maintaining a safe community where our children can thrive, while still honoring the traditions that Vermont values. Thank you to all who supported us in our race. And if you have been inspired by those who gave, please join!
Middlebury Mamas
Anna Benvenuto
Kerri Duquette-Hoffman
Jennifer Bleich
Mary Heather Noble
Natasha Causton
Elaine Orozco Hammond

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