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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Seniors Train For Upper Valley Event...On Walkers

Charlotte Albright
Jane von Salis, Anne Bacon and Joan Ashley meet at Kendall on Hanover to plan for the Prouty. Ashley will cheer for her two friends who will be using the "go-carts" to walk a route at the event which raises funds for cancer research.

In a few weeks bikers, walkers, rowers, golfers and hikers will flex their collective muscles for a good cause in the Upper Valley. The Prouty is a fundraiser for cancer research that generates money by asking donors to sponsor athletes.

Some of the most senior participants are currently training--on walkers.

Drive into the expansive and elegant retirement community Kendall at Hanover, and you need to keep a sharp eye out for senior pedestrians pushing metal walkers on wheels. Most of the users prefer to call them go-carts. Under the handlebars, baskets carry water bottles, extra jackets, maybe medication – anything a serious walker needs for a daily stroll around the property bordered with beautiful flowers.

Wheels spin faster as a few walkers plan to do more than just smell the peonies. A threesome of women in their eighties have signed up on clipboards to walk a 1.8 mile loop for the Prouty. It was named for Audrey Prouty, who battled ovarian cancer until her death in 1982.

Anne Bacon has broken her hip and her pelvis, so now she needs her go-cart to get around. But she’s still participating.

“Because I think it’s a good cause for the cancer and any way you can get somebody to give you money is good,” says Bacon.

So will another resident, Jane von Salis. As she waits for a meeting about the Prouty to start in the lobby of Kendall’s community building, von Salis tells the receptionist that she’s going to take a little practice lap around the inside of the building.

“When I first came here I could walk all the way around the property twice a day without even thinking,” says von Salis. “One grows old.”

"When I first came here I could walk all the way around the property twice a day without even thinking. One grows old." - Jane von Salis

But this one – and at least two other friends – are not letting age slow them down. With their go-carts they say they can pick up some speed if they have to.

When Granthia Preston shows up, Jane von Salis peppers her with questions about the Prouty route and the best way to prepare for it.

“You really think I have to train for this?” asks von Salis.

“No you don’t have to train, but the whole purpose is to set a goal,” says Preston. “The more you walk the healthier you’ll be.”

The goal for this year’s Prouty is to raise three million dollars for cancer research. Rebecca Gray, Senior Program Manager for the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, oversees the event. She says the seniors who live at Kendall have special reasons to participate as actively as possible.

“As you get older you’re more likely to have cancer and to support the cancer cause. Kendall is incredible, the way they support the Prouty,” says Gray.

Those who can’t move all that far or fast form a cheering section at the top of the final hill on the route. Gray’s mother, Joan Ashley, leads the charge on that one.

“But it’s at the very end of the race and it’s really a lot of work coming up there,” says Ashley. “So we stand out there with our white hair, our gray hair, our no hair and our walkers and our wheelchairs and have a big sign that says ‘You’re Over the Hill and So Are We.’”

Well, maybe they are. But anyone who is over a hill had to have climbed one to begin with, and the oldest Prouty competitors have all done that, in one way or another. The race is on July 12.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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