A crowd of more than 100 came Thursday night to The Shake Pit on Manatee Avenue West to send Patty Virgilio and five close girlfriends off on their car trip of a lifetime along U.S. Route 66 of the Old West.
A Herald story Thursday told how Virgilio, who works for her family’s Callaghan Tire business in Bradenton and has been battling stage four pancreatic cancer for nearly four years, wanted to cross Route 66 off her bucket list.
Virgilio’s 2,400-mile trip starts with an airplane ride Friday from Tampa to Chicago where Route 66 begins. It will conclude July 18 in Los Angeles.
Fresh off her latest round of chemotherapy, a tired but fired-up Virgilio arrived at the party shortly before 6 p.m. and people, even total strangers, began to scream for her as if she were a rock star.
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“I was blown away by the support,” Virgilio said later. “It was heartfelt. It was all heartfelt, just so amazing.”
Bradenton’s Colleen McDowell shook Virgilio’s hand, told her she was going through treatment for ovarian cancer and was going to get through it the same way Virgilio does: going all in.
“I told her she can do it and not to buy into it,” Virgilio said.
The five friends who decided it was time for Virgilio to see the landmark U.S. road include her younger sister, Janey Trinci; and friends Julie Rothfeld, who is keeping a blog of the trip; Trudi Diamant, trip navigator; Jean Gurucharri, a nurse and trip-finance director; and Patti Tibbetts, who has the role of “trip mom.”
The women have named themselves “The Sixty-Sixtahs” and when they arrive in Los Angeles, they hope to find a way to introduce Virgilio to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and movie star Melissa McCarthy, two of her idols and two more possible checkoffs on her bucket list.
Also at the party:
▪ Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston gave Virgilio and her girlfriends keys to the city of Bradenton and made them official Bradenton ambassadors.
▪ Poston proclaimed the days of July 8-17 as, “Sixty-Sixtah Week.”
▪ The iconic Shake Pit sign on Manatee Avenue West read: “Patty V. Crusin Rte. 66. Fighting Cancer All The Way.”
▪ The trip was blessed by Father Lawton Lang, a newly minted priest with 28 days of service at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bradenton. Lang sprinkled holy water on the six women and later said this was his first ceremony as a priest.
▪ Local author Sal Santoro presented Virgilio with an autographed copy of the book he wrote with Bob Walton called, “Route 66,” which was written after his epic trip on the route.
▪ The Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church’s Hand Bell Choir delighted the crowd with several numbers.
▪ The Manatee High School Sugarcanes dance team performed.
The women have created a blog called, “Don’t Forget Winona,” which reflects a lyric of the song “Route 66.”
Their blog is dontforgetwinonablog.wordpress.com.