Local cyclist bikes to raise money to cure cancer

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By John R. Nieb

On Aug. 5 and 6, Terry Nolan of West Granby biked 192 miles in the Pan Mass Challenge to help  raise $48 million for research and cancer care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The Pan Mass Challenge is an annual bike-a-thon created in 1980 by Billy Starr, executive director, bicyclist, and fundraiser for the event. The PMC contributes more money than any other athletic event.


At the finish line are Terry Nolan, his wife, Donna and their children, Tim, Maria and John, and his brother Rich’s children, Nikki and Chris. Submitted photo

Ever since the first challenge, it has raised $547 million for adult and pediatric care and cancer research through the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston. The Jimmy Fund is Dana Farber’s biggest contributor. The PMC has raised over 52 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue. The Red Sox Foundation and New Balance present the PMC each year.
Nolan was one of 6,200 bicyclists from over 40 states and eight countries that participated in the Pan Mass Challenge, where they choose 12 routes of varying length that run through 46 towns. The bicyclists are between the ages of 15 and 84 and are from seasonal triathletes to weekend warriors who either train alone or do everything in between their work and life schedules.
Many participants honor their family members or friends that either lost their battles to cancer, are battling cancer or are being treated for cancer. Over 600 riders and volunteers are cancer survivors or current patients, and are called “Living Proof” of the PMC mission to find a cure.
The average bicyclist trains for three months, solicits 40 sponsors and raises more than $7,000. Volunteers, spectators, donors and sponsors come together on ride weekend to work together to find a way to cure cancer.
Four years ago, when Nolan’s brother, Rich, lost his life to cancer, Nolan started to participate in the Pan Mass Challenge. Both of Nolan’s parents also lost their lives to cancer, further motivating him.
Rich had powered his way through the first 42 miles of the event in 2011, despite the fact he was battling multiple myeloma,  an aggressive blood cancer to which he succumbed in 2013 at the age of 52.
“I decided to follow in his footsteps and rode my first PMC in 2014 and every year since then,” Nolan said. “I’ve raised over $25,000 for the lifesaving research and care at Dana Faber, where Rich was treated.”
Nolan’s wife, Donna, and their three children volunteer at the finish line. Nolan’s sister-in-law and her children also volunteer.
Nolan is on the Patriot Platelet Peddler’s Team, sponsored by the Kraft family and the New England Patriots.  They wear sports jerseys with Rich’s initials on them, along with the initials of other individuals who lost their lives to cancer.
Nolan goes through months of training. Even though Nolan works during the week, he trains on the weekend. In the winter, Nolan rides a bike indoors.
As for fundraising, Nolan made his minimum commitment at $4,800, which is the amount he was on the hook for. If he falls short, the Pan Mass Challenge charges his credit card for the difference. The minimum fundraising requirements are a key to the PMC’s annual fundraising success.
Nolan reached his minimum commitment this year but is still short of his annual goal to reach the “heavy hitter” designation, which he has done in each of his three years. This year, “heavy hitter” status requires $7,800. Nolan is always optimistic about reaching that goal.
Collin Sheppard of Granby also planned to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge but he was called into work that weekend and was unable to participate. He had to cancel his ride, which turned into a virtual ride.
It would have been Sheppard’s first Pan Mass Challenge. When Sheppard was younger, three out of four of his grandparents lost their lives to cancer.
Sheppard always wondered how to contribute to finding a cure for cancer.  After Sheppard met his wife, she invited him to see her sister ride in the Pan Mass Challenge.
Sheppard hopes to ride next year.  He hasn’t met his fundraising goals and that would be the only thing that would stop him from riding next year.
Visit www.pmc.org for more information about the event, make a financial contribution for a hometown rider or become a virtual rider. People can also connect with #PanMass2017 on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.