MYSTIC — A local resident and business owner is looking to bring some goodwill to start 2021 with an effort that would see him run over 40 miles in just 12 hours before delivering a truck containing 10,000 items to a food bank in Griswold.

Brian Gates, a Stonington resident and founder of Mystic-based Bookwell Travel, will begin running just after midnight on New Year’s Day, beginning in Mystic, and will continue on a 46-mile journey through Sterling and eventually to Old Pachaug Town Hall in Griswold around noon. Upon arriving, after taking a few moments to catch his breath, Gates said in a release that he will donate 10,000 nonperishable food items to St. Mary’s Food Pantry.

“We want to start 2021 off right. 2020 was one of the most difficult years we have ever seen, and we want to start 2021 by bringing good to our community and the world,” said Gates, who also owns Spicer Mansion. “I can think of no better way to start the year than by personally running to raise awareness of our hunger crisis and making an impact at one of our local food pantries.”

In a phone conversation on Thursday, Gates said the concept was part of a larger effort his company has undertaken in the past year. During the week prior to Christmas, he said his organization was able to help deliver approximately 82,500 meals to food banks in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey.

Gates said that as travel agents — his organization provides online travel services and partners with Booking.com — his company had a chance to make a global impact, leading them to take on worldwide hunger as a cause.

“We have been fortunate, and this was a unique way to give back,” he said.

An avid runner, Gates said he was not concerned about the distance or timeline. He is currently in training to participate in an Iron Man triathlon competition on Long Island in August.

Gates will be joined by state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, who will take part in the donation delivery, officials said.

“This selfless act will help provide food for thousands of needy area residents while uniting us in the fight to combat hunger,” Somers said. “On behalf of the residents of the 18th state Senate district, I thank Brian Gates for setting such an inspiring example as we start the new year off on the right foot.”

Like many food pantries throughout the country, both Gates and Somers said St. Mary’s Food Pantry has been a critical lifeline for families and those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the demand for food assistance has dramatically increased since the initial wave of the pandemic in early 2020.

Gates said his goal with the program is to raise awareness of the 12 hours of hunger families can face in a day when food pantries run out of meals. 

As part of the effort, which began last year and will continue into 2021, Bookwell Travel plans to donate directly to one of over 370 food banks located throughout North America and provide 10 meals to the hungry per booking, with the mission to deliver 16 million meals by the end of 2021.

Bookwell Travel donates directly to food banks to ensure 100% of each donation goes directly toward creating meals for those in need, he said.

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