Remembering Chloe Harding at the Pan Mass Challenge
To the Editor:
The 40th Pan-Mass Challenge took place on Aug. 3 and 4. The two-day bike-a-thon raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 100% of rider-raised donations go straight to the institute.
The opening ceremonies take place on Friday night in Sturbridge and are televised. Having attended the opening ceremonies every year I started from Sturbridge, I know how emotional they can be and how inspired they make you feel.
For me, this year’s opening ceremonies were very special. Earlier in the year, WBZ-TV had aired a story on our Cranberry Country PMC Kids Ride that took place on June 2, in which 407 kids rode and we raised more than $100,000. But the real reason WBZ-TV was there was to share the story of Chloe Harding and her family.
Chloe was a three-time rider in our Kids Ride. She was a sassy, fierce, strong, determined and beautiful little eight-year-old girl who lost her battle with cancer this past February. Chloe and her family continue to inspire everyone who knows them through their grace, strength, courage and love. I had hoped to see a story about Chloe during the opening ceremonies.
As I sat at home watching the television, I was not disappointed. When discussing the Kids Rides’ contribution to the Challenge, Chloe’s story was shared with everyone. I was told by friends who were that there was not a dry eye in the building. Chloe and her family are very special. Their story cannot help but move you.
The first day of the ride I caught up with Debora Bacchiochi in Lakeville. Debbie is a twelve-time rider like me. She is a kindergarten teacher at the Rochester Memorial School and was Chloe’s teacher. They had a special bond. I got to know Debbie as a volunteer in our Kids Ride and as the person who organizes my annual presentation to the students at the Rochester Memorial School. We have become friends during the past four years.
She also happens to be the unofficial mayor of Rochester, as I soon found out. When I saw Debbie in Lakeville, she hugged me and began to cry. She explained how this year was especially emotional. Debbie has done the ride in honor of Chloe for many years. This was her first ride in memory of Chloe. She knew I would understand. So, we rode together until we got to Debbie’s house, where there was a party being held in her honor. Along the way we made several stops to see her friends who were lined up along the course to support her and say “hi.” I almost thought she was running for re-election.
The ride passes Chloe’s house as well. Along the front yard were numerous pictures of Chloe, we stopped for a moment to look at the photos and take pictures of us next to them. It was a special moment. A hundred yards further I saw Kathy Harding, Chloe’s grandmother. She gave me a big hug, told me she was hoping to see me and started to cry. I felt so thankful to share that moment with her. She is a wonderful woman.
The next stop was Debbie’s house. There had to be at least 30 to 40 family members and friends waiting to see her. It was quite a celebration. I felt so fortunate and happy to be a part of it. It helped fuel the rest of my ride to Mass Maritime.
The next day brought beautiful weather and a fantastic ride. I remember being tired about twenty miles from the finish, with my legs on the verge of cramping and thinking of Chloe. I looked down at the band on my wrist that reads “Chloe’s PMC Ride” and just kept on going. When Chloe was sick and not feeling well or when she was receiving treatments, she still showed up and rode at our Kids Ride. She was not about to let a little thing like chemotherapy stop her. The example she set puts things in perspective very quickly.
As I approached the finish line at the Monument Finish, I was focused on one thing – seeing my family. For me, seeing Lisa, Alex and Lily, is the greatest feeling of all. I am so thankful to be a part of the Pan Mass Challenge and for the people I have met along the way. I am especially thankful to have known a very special little girl named Chloe.