Massachusetts towns toast man's beer tour fundraiser for cancer research
DALTON -- In a virtually empty Mill Town Tavern on Thursday, Todd Ruggere sat at the bar, sipping on a glass of frothy Sam Adams Summer Ale.
Using his free hand, Ruggere wrote "DALTON" in bright permanent marker in a sketchbook. Next to it, "#140" was circled.
"That's 211 more to go," said Ruggere, a 38-year-old mutual funds worker from Grafton.
"Two hundred more than I'd like," Ruggere's pregnant wife, Katie Ruggere, joked.
Dalton marked the 140th Massachusetts town Ruggere has visited just to drink a Sam Adams in. His goal: Drink a Sam Adams in each of the 351 towns or cities in Massachusetts, collecting money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston along the way.
"I've always wanted to raise money for them," Ruggere said at the Old Heritage Tavern in Lenox on Thursday morning, his first Berkshire stop in the statewide beer tour.
In addition to Dalton and Lenox, Ruggere also drank a beer in Richmond and Hinsdale Thursday before heading home, knocking four more towns off his map. He earned $300 in donations from the Berkshires Thursday. Since the fundraiser began in January, Ruggere has earned $12,400 that will go to the cancer institute.
"If it was anything else, it wouldn't be as cool," Ruggere said.
Ruggere's journey can be followed at 351samadams.com. Since Sam Adams is Ruggere's favorite drink, the company has sponsored his fundraiser, giving him a Sam Adams jacket and notebook.
Starting with an early lunch Thursday at Old Heritage Tavern in Lenox -- where he received a $250 donation -- Ruggere then moved on to SoMa Catering in Richmond.
"They only had samples," Ruggere said, "so I tasted a couple of different beers."
His final stop was at The Home Club in Hinsdale.
The Berkshire pubs that Ruggere stopped by Thursday were far from busy. At each of the stops, the pub owners listened to the story of Ruggere's journey. At Mill Town Tavern in Lenox, Bill West, the owner, looked over Ruggere's state map, and suggested bars in other towns.
"It's like this everywhere I go," Ruggere said.
At some of the 141 stops Ruggere has made thus far, his appearance becomes a celebration. People will drink with him.
"A lot of places will announce in advance that I'm coming, and they will have a crowd," he said. "Everyone's like, ‘Why didn't I think of that?' "
Towns like Malden and Quincy have had the bigger turnouts, generating thousands of dollars in donations, Ruggere said.
Ruggere has never been drunk on the beer tour, he said. He mostly goes alone, but is sometimes joined by his wife, or some friends.
Katie Ruggere joined him more when the fundraiser first started in towns near home. Being pregnant, she can't drink, which is "not as much fun," she said.
It was her last-minute idea to visit the Berkshires on Thursday.
"I like coming here," she said.
The reception for the fundraiser has been "unbelievable," Ruggere said. Residents in the state's nine dry towns, or towns that don't have a bar or pub, have invited him to have a beer at their house.
Ruggere's fundraiser is his own initiative, and not through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
"It is inspiring when people take initiative to raise money to support cancer research and care," Dana-Farber Cancer Institute spokeswoman Molly McHale said in a statement. "Todd's very creative approach isn't one that we would undertake ourselves, but we are grateful for his efforts, and wish him great success."
Ruggere will return to the Berkshires on May 17 to drink in Becket, Lee and Worthington. He wants to have his beer in Hancock at the Berkshire Vista Resort, the clothing-optional facility, Ruggere said. His last stop will be in Boston.
"I'm hoping he's done by October, when the baby gets here," Katie Ruggere said. "He'll probably want to take the baby to the brewery, too, wearing a Sam Adams onesie."
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