‘Shop for A Cure’ at Vineyard Vines benefit on Saturday

Cheering on cyclists in the Tri-State Trek in honor of former town police Sgt. Roger Petrone has become a tradition for many residents, but this weekend’s Vineyard Vines “Shop for A Cure” event is expected to take community support to another level.

Shop for A Cure, which will be co-hosted by Chief of Police James Heavey and Lt. Richard Cochran, aims to raise research money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a rare and fatal disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Sgt. Petrone, a decorated officer and a former member of the department’s SWAT team, suffers from ALS and is now confined to a wheelchair and is no longer able to speak.

The event will provide shoppers with a 10% discount on all Vineyard Vines purchases on Saturday, June 29, from noon to 4, while the local retailer will donate 10% of the event’s sales to the ALS Foundation. As an added incentive, shoppers will also have the opportunity to win special prizes, enjoy a beer tasting with Half Full Brewery and shop with “celebrity” salespeople like First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman Drew Marzullo.

According to Lt. Cochran, it was a Vineyard Vines employee who contacted the police department in hopes of teaming up for the event. The woman had participated in GPD’s Citizens Police Academy (CPA), a free program offering participants a look at the day-to-day life of town police, whose members were each sent a letter from Lt. Cochran asking them to make a donation in honor of Sgt. Petrone.

The letter, he said, was particularly moving this year as Sgt. Petrone was quoted throughout, describing his former self versus what has become of him since being diagnosed with ALS. He spoke of the simple tasks he yearns to be able to do and of the little sleep he is able to get, being plagued by bizarre dreams, Lt. Cochran said. The CPA participant found Sgt. Petrone’s words so “touching” that she helped conjure up Shop for A Cure, in order to raise more money for ALS research, he said.

The shopping event is a kickoff of sorts to next month’s Tri-State Trek — a 270-mile bike ride from Newton, Mass., to Greenwich benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute and offering one-, two- and three-day ride options on July 19, 20 and 21.

Various members of the Greenwich Police Department began participating in the trek six years ago when Sgt. Petrone was diagnosed. Although those coping with the disease live an average of just three to five years, Sgt. Petrone, who was diagnosed at age 36, has beaten the odds after six years of battling ALS. Nevertheless, the former officer cannot walk, speak or even raise his arms above his waist due to the debilitating disease, which currently has no cure.

And although plenty of community members would like to donate to Sgt. Petrone specifically, he has “always been stubborn” about insisting that all funding be put towards ALS research rather than himself, Lt. Cochran said. The reality, he added, is that Sgt. Petrone knows it’s too late to save himself but he is hopeful that a cure can be found that will allow others with the disease to live full lives.

Lt. Cochran, a regular participant in the ride, said he has recruited 11 people to make the three-day journey for his Tri-State Trek team this year, comprised of GPD members and even some local teachers, he said. Whether residents are participating in the trek or joining Sgt. Petrone in cheering on participants and ringing the event’s popular cowbells on the sidelines, the town has always been highly supportive of the event and its cause, he added.

After Sgt. Petrone protected and served Greenwich for 18 years as a police officer, it’s “nice to get the community involved” to repay him for his dedication, Lt. Cochran said.

Shop for A Cure will take place at Vineyard Vines, 145 Greenwich Avenue, on June 29 from noon to 4.

To learn more about the Tri-State Trek, visit tst.als.net.

 

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