Manchester community "Rallies for Halley"

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SUNDERLAND — Manchester has often been lauded for its natural beauty, shopping opportunities, and artistic heritage; but for local resident Halley Monforte, Manchester's strength may be in the community itself.

Monforte, a 33 year old mother of three, has deep roots in this community. A 2004 graduate of Burr and Burton Academy, Monforte returned to her alma mater in 2012 to coach field hockey. Her husband, Zach, is a paraeducator at Burr and Burton, as well as the wrestling coach.

On May 17, Monforte was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrosytoma grade 3 brain tumor. While such a diagnosis is terrifying, the costs associated with the illness can be just as scary.

"Medical expenses can be pricey, being out of work can be pricey, and needing help commuting can be pricey," said Monforte. "With the support from this town, the whole process has been an amazing and humbling experience."

Monforte underwent immediate chemotherapy and radiation treatment, leaving her unable to work. In the course of her illness, her family will be faced with medical, travel, and food expenses; having to make daily trips to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington as well as follow-up appointments in Burlington.

Almost immediately a GoFundMe account was set up by local resident Barbara Muench. On Sunday night, the community was rallied together by Monforte's friend Kim Bushee to celebrate this support and continue to raise funds.

"It started with a coffee date with one of my good friends, Kim Bushee, and I mentioned that I really wanted to do something, because we have a really amazing community," said Monforte, stunned by the success of the GoFundMe campaign which has raised over $47,000 thus far. "We wanted to thank the community for their support throughout this whole process."

Bushee, the event coordinator at Sunderland's Hill Farm Inn, soon got to work alongside friends Kate Slade and Jason Pergament.

"When I heard about what was going on I wanted to be able to help, so I thought that organizing a fundraiser would be a great way to get the community involved and get everyone to be a part of Rally for Halley," said Bushee. "We're here to support a really amazing woman."

"It is absolutely incredible; I have been blown away time and time again," said Slade. "It's been such a good, supportive turnout."

Sunday's fundraiser at the Hill Farm Inn drew well over 100 guests, who enjoyed food donated by The Equinox Hotel, lawn games, activities for kids, a cash bar, and a silent auction. Many community members, some who don't know Monforte personally, came out to volunteer.

"Whenever you hear of a mom in need or any of your community members really, there's something you can do," said volunteer Courtney Weir of Manchester. "These events that serve to help people and show them that they're supported are just huge for the recovery process, and for everybody's well being."

"I like to think it shows how the community can come together when asked," said volunteer Lisa McGunnigle, who worked with Monforte at Take Five Childcare in Manchester. "It's just great to see all of these people from all of the different areas where her family is involved."

The crowd later enjoyed a live performance by the local "Don't Leave Band," led by Burr and Burton faculty member Bill Muench.

"I was lucky enough to teach Halley in High School, and I've been friends with her and Zach since then, so this has been kind of a no-brainer," said Muench. "Look at the diversity of the people who are here; it's pretty impressive."

While Monforte is described as "strong and fiercely loyal," on her GoFundMe page, the Manchester community has rallied to reflect those attributes right back at her, according to organizers.

"It's been an extremely positive response," said Bushee. "There's really been an outpouring of love."

"We all should be so lucky to be able to rely on each other as this town does, this community really picks people up when they need it," said Monforte. "That's why we live in this amazing place."

The GoFundMe page for Halley Monforte can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/halley-montforte-fights-cancer.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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