Local Pan-Mass Challenge cyclists pedalled for an 'amazing' ride

Aug 7, 2018

They rode for family. They rode for friends. They rode to help strangers win the battle of their lives. They rode to remember. They rode to give thanks. They rode for a cure.

For many of the 17 Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester cyclists in the 39th Annual Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day 192-mile fundraising bicycle ride to benefit Dana- Farber Cancer Institute, participating in the Aug. 4-5, event is a life-lifting experience that touched them in personal ways, and made them feel a part of something larger.

"Amazing. That's the word for this year. Amazing," Bill Tilden, of Marion, said in describing his sixth Pan- Mass Challenge ride. "From the PMC staff, volunteers, pit crews, riders and crazy fans, they have been unbelievable every year. Every year for all six years, they bring their 'A' game."

After difficulty finishing last year, Tilden challenged himself to do better this year.

"I was honestly disappointed in myself finishing last year," Tilden, who is Old Rochester Regional High School athletic director, said. "I was so exhausted and felt like I was in quicksand towards the end. I felt like I was being passed by thousands in the last portion of day two and was surprised I didn't tip over because I was going so slow."

Weather threw a lot at the riders last year and this year, but they soldiered on.

"The headwind, the heat, all I know was that Mother Nature beat me last year," Tilden said. "I finished but wondered how many more I could do," he said. "This year Mother Nature hit us with heavy rains, dense fog, heat, winds, washouts and wipe outs, but I had one of my best rides ever."

Tilden said last year's difficult ride made him work harder. But the coach said he's in it to win it, and that will keep him on the bike.

"One hundred ninety two miles is rough, especially in August,  But fighting cancer doesn't compare," Tilden said, touching on why he does it. "I watched my mom battle bone cancer. Nothing has impacted me more in my entire life. Her last days...."

As physically challenging as the rides can be, Tilden said that isn't the hardest part.

"Hardest part for me is asking for money every year. But I am going to keep asking until no one goes through what my mom did," Tilden said. "Thank you to everyone who does donate to my ride or to any of the thousands of others who ride. I rode with some who have overcome cancer but I rode with far more that ride because of the hole in their life that cancer has caused."

For fellow veteran Pan Mass Challenger rider Maureen Mullen, of Rochester, this year's ride was particularly emotional.

"This my fourth Pan-Mass Challenge. I rode this year in honor of my dad, Charles Kelly. He passed away in March of this year," Mullen said. "He had stage four brain cancer."

Mullen rode this year with her sister, Kim DeLeo of Mattapoisett.

"Cancer has been the bane of our existence for our family," Mullen said."It has hit far too many of our relatives."The Pan-Mass Challenge is pretty near and dear to our hearts."

"It is the most amazing event I've ever participated in," Mullen said of the two-day fundraising bike ride that drew 6,300 cyclists. "It's probably the most amazing experience I've ever had in my entire life. The camaraderie is amazing. I can't even think of words to explain it. You're not alone in this. No matter what your involvement is. Whether you're a rider or a volunteer, a supporter, anybody. It's so moving. It's beyond words, really."

Cancer touches everyone, Mullen noted. She praised Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for its commitment to patients and curing cancer.

"No matter who you talk to, they know cancer; whether they had a brush with it or it was a scare, or had treatment and survived or had surgery and did well, or went through numerous amounts of radiation and chemo and beat cancer. Or had lost their battle," she said. "No matter what it is there are so many people's lives that are touched by it. We were because of my dad but we had lost family members."

"Dad was the first to go through Dana-Farber. We experienced Dana-Farber itself. The doctors, nurses, the staff, are wonderful," Mullen said. "When (my father) passed, his nurse practitioner came to his service. It's so incredible the care he received. Dana-Farber truly cares for their patients."

This is the second year Kyle Letendre, a sixth grade teacher at Old Hammondotwn School, participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge. He said he wants to set an example for his students.

"There  wasn't a specific person I rode for. I'm a teacher in Mattapoisett and I wanted to set a good example for my students. My grandfather passed away from related illnesses. I rode for my girlfriend, my family, my friends. I ended up getting 83 donations."

"Last year was a smaller experience because I did a 50-miler. I raised almost $2,000 last year because the fundraising is smaller for short rides," the elemetary school teacher said. "This is my first full ride. The first day I went from Wellesley to Bourne. The second day I rode to Provincetown, so this was definitely a much bigger experience. The training was much more intense as well.

"I really enjoyed it and I was happy to raise about $5,000 for charity," Letendre said.

The Pan-Mass Challnge goal this year is to raise $52 million, for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The PMC donates 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar directly to Dana-Farber through the its fundraising arm, the Jimmy Fund, and is the institute’s largest single contributor, raising more than 53 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue. For more information on teh Pan-Mass Challenge, go online to: www.pmc.org.