’22 Coast to Coast Comes Home

Dustin Moore, Julia Neri, and Brian Legato, the students making up the UConn Health’s 17th Coast to Coast for a Cause team, pedal for seven weeks and more than 3,000 miles to complete this year’s cross-country bicycle tour for charity.

Cyclists hold up their bikes on the Atlantic shore

From left: Dustin Moore, Julia Neri, and Brian Legato hoist their bikes on the Atlantic shore in Hammonasset Beach State Park to celebrate their completion of the 2022 Coast to Coast for a Cause. (Photo by Deanna Miville)

Cyclists at Glacier National Park sign
From left: Brian Legato, Dustin Moore, and Julia Neri make it to Glacier National Park in Montana, one of the spots they were looking forward to seeing the most, on Day 14 of the 2022 Coast to Coast for a Cause ride. (uconncoast2coast2022.blogspot.com).

Three students — two medical and one dental — are back in Connecticut after spending the last seven weeks carrying out the annual UConn Health tradition of cycling cross-country to raise money for charity.

Julia Neri, Dustin Moore, and Brian Legato arrived to a cheering crowd of classmates, friends and family members awaiting them at the academic entrance on the UConn Health campus Monday afternoon.

“Riding into UConn Health [Monday], I was overwhelmed with the excitement of being home, the pride of finishing an amazing accomplishment, and gratitude for all the support we received over the past two months,” Neri says. “I will hold the memories from this trip forever.”

group portrait with cross-country cylcists in front of academic entrance
Classmates, friends and family celebrate the arrival of UConn Health’s 17th Coast to Coast for a Cause team. (Photo by Kristin Wallace)
Cyclists on Pacific shore
From left: Dustin Moore, Brian Legato, and Julia Neri start the 2022 Coast to Coast for a Cause bike tour from the Pacific shore in Anacortes, Washington. (instagram.com/coast2coast_2022)

The final stretch of the 2022 Coast to Coast for a Cause ride came a day later, when the cyclists, and anyone who wants to join them, pedaled from Farmington to Madison, officially ending the ride when their bike tires touched the Atlantic waters at Hammonasset Beach State Park.

“It really is an incredible feeling to finish,” Legato says. “I kept commenting on our last ride [Monday] about how crazy and surreal it felt to be back home. It really has been one of the biggest accomplishments of my life and something that I am going to remember forever.”

They started on the Pacific shore in Anacortes, Washington, more than 3,000 miles away, June 6.

Cyclists watching fireworks
“The 250-person town of Gackle, North Dakota, is by far the best place to spend the 4th of July,” says Julia Neri. “The entire town welcomed us in on all the festivities, including a BBQ, parade, picnic, and the best fireworks show that was set off only 100 yards away.” (uconncoast2coast2022.blogspot.com).

“I wish I knew how short it was actually going to be,” Moore says. “In the moment it seemed like it was taking forever, but now that it’s at the end it feels like we blinked and it was over.”

Neri adds, “I would pass along to future years to soak in every single moment of the adventure and to not take anything for granted.”

The cause again this year is the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, in Ashford, a free summer camp for children who are dealing with medical problems, founded by celebrity Paul Newman.

By the time they crossed the Connecticut state line, the students had raised more than $16,000, which does not include additional pledges. The team is still accepting donations on behalf of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Cyclists at Washington Pass sign
From left: Julia Neri, Dustin Moore, and Brian Legato make it to Washington Pass on Day 3 of the 2022 Coast to Coast for a Cause ride. (uconncoast2coast2022.blogspot.com)

“I want to thank everyone who has been incredibly generous to donate to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp,” Neri says. “With everyone’s help we have been able to raise enough money to send at least six children to camp, where they will be able to receive a different kind of healing for their serious illnesses.”

Cyclist in unlit tunnel
The ride home included a tunnel in Wisconsin that was long enough that a portion of it had no natural light.(uconncoast2coast2022.blogspot.com).

Neri, who’s from Wallingford, is an MD/MPH candidate, with aspirations to go into pediatrics. Her undergraduate studies at UConn included public health as well as biological studies, Spanish and Latino studies.

“This summer has opened my eyes to the immense generosity of friends, family, and even those people we had never met prior to this trip to open their homes to us,” she says. “It has allowed us to meet incredible individuals and form new friendships.”

Cyclists at Connecticut state line
Day 51: Julia Neri, Dustin Moore, and Brian Legato cross the Connecticut line in New Canaan. The following day the would arrive on the UConn Health campus. “I think that what I will remember most is all of the amazing hosts that we stayed with,” Legato says. “Meeting all kinds of different people across the country was so fun and we heard all kinds of different stories.”(uconncoast2coast2022.blogspot.com).

Legato, who grew up in Colchester, is a second-year dental student with aspirations to both practice and teach.

“The biggest surprise for me was just how fast we began to go toward the end of the trip,” he says. “It took two weeks to get through Montana but we traveled through the entire second half of the country in the same amount of time. It must have been our urge to get home as soon as we could!”

Moore, of Berlin, New Hampshire, also is going into his second year of medical school. He hasn’t decided which specialty to pursue yet.

“I’m surprised at how our bodies were able to adapt so quickly and be able to handle the stress of a trip like this — at some point it was our minds that needed resting before our bodies did,” he says. “It’s pretty surreal. It’s hard to believe we actually did it, but it’s something I’ll never forget, or let anyone else forget for that matter.”

Niagra falls lit at night
The Coast to Coast itinerary includes a few days in Ontario, Canada, before re-entering the U.S. near Niagra Falls, shown here at night from the Canadian side on Day 44. (uconncoast2coast2022.blogspot.com).

Find the students’ blog, photos, videos, and how to donate.

Listen to the students discuss their trip on the UConn Health Pulse podcast days before departing.