Pedaling with purpose

by Town Reminder

Six residents cycle for a cure
By William Pead
Turley Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – Their reasons for participating are many, but their united participation is the reason more than 338 million dollars has been raised for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The event is the 33rd Pan Massachusetts Challenge [PMC], an annual bike-a-thon from Sturbridge to Provincetown at the very tip of Cape Cod. Fifty-five hundred cyclists from 36 states and eight countries will ride this year with the goal of raising 36 million dollars. Six residents of South Hadley will join them.
Alison and A.J. O’Donald of South Hadley who run a law practice in Holyoke, are riding their bikes for the PMC for the first year. Alison said, “It’s been something we’ve always been interested in doing, and this year it just fell into place. We decided to do it this year before we’re too old and don’t have the time or ability to ride that far.”
Alison, who grew up in Sturbridge and knew about the history of the PMC, said they would be riding as part of a team of four or five others. It’s not the first time they’ve been on a fundraising ride. They’ve also been a part of Katelynn’s Ride, held in Amherst in memory of 11-year old Katelynn Battista, who lost her battle with cancer in 1997.
Among the options for PMC riders are six two-day routes that range from 153 to 190 miles and five one-day rides that range from 25 to 110 miles. In 2012, cyclists are required to raise between $500 and $4,300 to ride in the PMC, with all money going to Dana-Farber.
Also participating is Lesley Wilson of South Hadley, who is riding in her second PMC. “Team Wilson Farm” will have ten members putting their efforts into the ride. The last time they raised almost 80 thousand dollars for the Jimmy Fund. She said her brother is a part of the team and they ”ride in honor of [their] father, who passed away from cancer.”
Wilson said a big part of the PMC is the crowd that cheers the riders on along the route. “Coming into Provincetown, I think there’s really a sense of accomplishment and having something for a really great purpose.”
Other South Hadley riders include James Gosselin, William Mahoney and Brenda Marti.
“The PMC is the gold standard of athletic fundraising events,” said Billy Starr, Pan-Massachusetts Challenge founder and executive director. “PMC-ers are as committed to raising money for cancer research as they are to pedaling the miles. PMC cyclists are all heart and soul.”  
Organizers point out that PMC riders range in age from 13 to 88. The average PMC cyclist trains for three months, solicits 40 sponsors, and raises more than $6,000.  Doctors ride alongside their patients; grandparents ride with their grandchildren; and others show support from the sidelines in the form of donations and cheers. More than 300 riders are cancer survivors or current patients.
Also participating are more than 3,000 volunteers who help make the PMC possible. The bike-a-thon features food and water stops, mechanical and medical assistance, luggage transportation, and lodging, running through 46 towns across Massachusetts.
The PMC is presented by the Red Sox Foundation and the New Balance Foundation. To become a virtual rider, or make a financial contribution to a rider from your town, visit or call (800) WE-CYCLE. Checks can be made payable to PMC, 77 Fourth Ave., Needham, Mass. 02494.