Running for a cure,  and to honor Rhonda

All of us know that we have a finite time to enjoy our lives, friends and family. But every so often a person important to us passes away, and it’s very hard to let them go. In organizing Rhonda’s Race in New Ipswich next month, a community is honoring Rhonda Traffie and raising money for the fight against cancer.

“She is going to be remembered,” says a determined Lucille Heikkila, Training Officer of the Souhegan Valley Ambulance Service, though, “she’d probably be mad at me.” According to Heikkila, Rhonda was a very private person who didn’t whine or want any special attention after being diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, she didn’t even tell her co-workers of her illness until chemotherapy made it obvious something was going on.

Rhonda Goddard Traffie was mother to 11 children when she decided to go to nursing school. She worked at the Monadnock Community Hospital, was a former Chief of the Ambulance Service, who stayed on the job a couple of months before passing away at age 56. After she lost her battle with the disease, her funeral was held at the Apostolic Lutheran Church in New Ipswich. A huge crowd came out to say goodbye, including many members of the area’s emergency services.

So, Heikkila says Rhonda’s Race is to, “remember a unique individual and to help local families affected by cancer. Rhonda also liked to remind people to be thankful for what they have.”

On Sept. 28 the 5K Walk or Run will be held at the Windblown Cross Country Ski Area off Turnpike Road, and pre-registration is already underway. Windblown has some of the most beautiful vistas along the Wapack Trail, which runs for some 21 miles from Greenfield to Mt. Watatic in Massachusetts.  Owner/operator Al Jenks of Windblown is opening the trails for the fundraiser, which is co-sponsored by the Souhegan Valley Ambulance Service and the Guardians of the Ribbon of Southern New Hampshire.

Jim Hicks is chairman of the local chapter of the Guardians of the Ribbon and is the Emergency Management Director for New Ipswich. You may have seen a big, bold pink 1978 Ford fire truck that the Guardians bring to special events throughout the New England area. It was donated by the Town of New Ipswich and is named in memory of Jim’s wife, Ellen, who passed away from cancer. Though the Guardians of the Ribbon are a national organization, the Southern New Hampshire chapter allocates all monies raised in the area. The funds raised from the Walk/Run will be used to help neighbors.

“Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer,” according to the American Cancer Society, “and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S.”  As you’ve probably heard, the seriousness of the diagnosis depends in large part on how early it is detected. Many family doctors recommend an annual breast check for women over 40, particularly for older women and those with a family history of breast cancer.

At Monadnock Regional Hospital they have the same state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment as is used at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. They take referrals from your family doctor for mammograms using a Holigic Selenia unit. Some women worry about the radiation they are exposed to during a mammogram, but it has been described as “insignificant.” In fact, you’re evidently exposed to more radiation on an airplane flight from New England to California.

If you’d like to pre-register for Rhonda’s Race, the fee is $25, or you can be a virtual runner for $20. Either way, you can sign up online at

Registration on the day of the race is $30, beginning at 7:30 that morning. The family cap is $60. But cash donations are not the only way to get involved. Businesses are donating goods and services that will be raffled off on the day of the event. If you have a business and would like to be a part of the effort, you can get in touch with Lou Heikkila at: Please put Rhonda’s Race in the subject line.

“All members of the Souhegan Valley Ambulances have a service number by which they are recognized when out on a call. I still well remember Rhonda’s was A-13,” says Heikkila. “Service was a big part of her life and we want people to remember Rhonda for her contributions both to the ambulance and to her community. She was a can-do person.”

The organizers are hoping a lot of can-do people will come out on Sept. 28 and help them provide help for those battling cancer in Southern New Hampshire.


Allen Reese lives in New Ipswich.

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