Duxbury residents pedal PMC for cancer research

This year, 34 Duxbury residents will ride in the 34th annual Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) to raise money to support adult and pediatric cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) through the Jimmy Fund. With a collective goal of raising $38 million for the cause, 5,500 cyclists, ranging in age from 13 to 88, will ride one of 11 one- and two-day routes across Massachusetts. The Clipper caught up with some of the riders and asked, “Why do you ride?”

Robin Hallowell is a breast cancer survivor of 14 years. This year, she will be riding in her fourth PMC.

“Luckily, the breast cancer is way in my rearview and I can now focus on training for this ride that supports such a good cause,” she said.

“Amazing” is a word abundant in her emotional recollection of her past experiences at the PMC. Grateful for being healthy enough to ride the past three years, Hallowell said she has had friends who were still going through treatment, or who had just finished treatment, that took on the challenge and truly inspired her.

“It’s amazing to see the people that are out there to support the riders and to help out at all the stops,” she said. “It is breathtaking to see the survivors, especially the children, and to see their smiles.”

Among her reasons for riding are her two daughters.

“It’s good to feel like I am helping find a cure so that if my daughters were ever diagnosed we could help them,” she said.

George Johnston, 80, will be riding in his 20th consecutive PMC ride on Aug. 3 and 4. He plans to pedal 192 miles from Sturbridge, where one of the two starting lines is located, to Provincetown. So far, Johnston has raised over $9,100 for DFCI this year. Johnston’s oldest son, Dana, a former Duxbury resident, will join his father on the ride. With a goal of clocking 100 miles riding per week for the last eight weeks, Johnston said his training is going well.

“Duxbury, with its beautiful scenery and miles of country, is the perfect area for cycling enthusiasts,” he said. “I usually get together with a group of cyclists at the cycle lodge located in Pembroke a few times a week and do rides of 30 or 40 miles, which helps to form a good base to build from.”

Johnston said fundraising is the most important part of the event and it is critical to keep raising money to help find a cure for all types of cancer.

Riding alongside Johnston is Bruce McCutcheon, who will be riding 192 miles for the seventh consecutive time. Since his first ride in 2007, he has raised over $53,000 for DFCI. McCutcheon said he started riding in the PMC to memorialize his first wife, Sally, who passed away from ovarian cancer at age 39.

Mike Quinlan, 51, will ride for the second time in this year’s Challenge. Quinlan be- came involved with the PMC last year, when his company became one of the lead sponsors of the Wellesley start line. He signed up to ride in the race as a member of his company’s team because he had known people who had been affected by cancer in some way. Three months after he decided to ride for the first time, his mother, Loretta, a former Duxbury resident, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. After watching her go through treatments and surgery, Quinlan decided to ride again this year.

“All the riders feel that if the people impacted by cancer can do what they need to do to fight for their lives, we can do this ride to raise money for them,” he said. “I’m 51 and riding over 170 miles and that’s no bargain, but it pales in comparison to what my mom is going through at Dana Farber.”

Quinlan, who also ran in the Boston Marathon in 2009 and 2010 and plans to again in the future, said the ride itself is emotionally overwhelming.

“Adults and children who have cancer line the route and hold up signs, telling us how grateful they are for people raising money to fight cancer,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

The PMC runs through 46 towns across the state, with six two-day routes ranging from 153 to 190 miles, and five one-day routes ranging from 25 to 110 miles. Cyclists are required to raise between $500 and $4,300 in order to ride, depending on the route. The two starting lines are in Sturbridge and Wellesley and there are five finish lines: two in Provincetown and one in Bourne, Wellesley and Foxboro. Riders travel from 36 states and eight countries to ride in the PMC. Over 350 riders are cancer survivors or patients.

The bike-a-thon is the largest fundraising event in the country. It was founded in 1980 by Billy Starr and since its inception the Challenge has raised $375 million for adult and pediatric cancer care and research at DFCI.

Doug Lareau will be rid- ing for the third time this year for more than one reason. Last year, his team raised $110,000, matched by MIT for a total of $220,000, for Dr. Christopher Sweeney, who specializes in prostate cancer research. The team became aware of Dr. Sweeney’s work when he treated their teammate. Personally, Lareau rides because his mother died from cancer when she was 47-years-old and a patient at Dana Farber.

“I saw this as a way to give back to those who gave so much to her in her final years in her fight against cancer,” he said.

Other Duxbury riders this year include Jayne and Tom Cattaneo, who will be riding in their third PMC; Tom Meagher, who will be participating in his fourth ride; Kate Eldredge and her daughter Chatham, who will be riding their first ever PMC; and Maarten Hemsley, who will ride in his 21st PMC with his two daughters, supported by his wife Mavis, who has volunteered for nearly as long.

Jackie Herskovitz, PMC spokesperson, said with 5,506 people registered to ride this year, volunteers are a critical aspect to the fundraiser that gives 100 percent of funds raised to DCFI.

“They make food, pass out water, pick up trash, and carry riders’ luggage from point A to point B,” Herskovitz said. “We have volunteer medical staff, bike mechanics, communicators and social media volunteers, photographers and overall support.”

Herskovitz said the riders always thank the volunteers and vice versa.

“It’s hard to know who is more grateful,” she said. “It certainly takes a village to make this all happen.”