By Lindsay Carey
Two Southington residents will join 5,8000 cyclists in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a 190 mile bike ride that raises money for the Jimmy Fund to support adult and pediatric cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
The 35th annual bike-a-thon on August 2 and 3 has a goal of raising $40 million for the cause. The PMC has raised over $414 million since 1980.
“The PMC is the gold standard of athletic fundraising events,” said Billy Starr, PMC founder and executive director, according to a press release.
Bikers ranging from ages 13 to 90 will ride across 46 towns in Massachusetts making the ride no easy feat. In addition the rigorous ride, PMC cyclists must raise between $500 and $4,300 in order to participate and all of the proceeds go to the Jimmy Fund.
Some riders participate because they are cancer survivors, while some may have lost a loved one to cancer and want to support a good cause.
Jimmy DeFau, from Marion, is one of those people. DeFau began cycling in 2012 when a friend of his who had cancer asked him to ride another charity bike-a-thon as a part of her fundraising campaign.
“I am riding for all my family and friends who have lost their battle to cancer and the many who have been kicking cancer butt,” said DeFau.
Since then, DeFau has participated in several charity bike rides and trains by riding all over Southington and the surrounding towns.
This year, he has decided to join his daughter Nicole and her boyfriend Chris, on TeamBrentWheels.
TeamBrentWheels was inspired by Brent, a three-year-old who was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma in 2005. When Brent was diagnosed, he had a 10 percent chance of survival. Treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute saved his life. Children diagnosed with neuroblastoma today have a 30 percent survival rate, so all of the proceeds from TeamBrentWheels will be donated to fight this specific childhood cancer.
DeFau has committed to raising $4,300 and said he is currently about 80 percent towards his goal.
Fellow Southington resident Mike Heller is participating in his third PMC ride.
“You’re surrounded by such energy it’s amazing,” said Heller of his experience with the race. “You don’t even realize you’re riding 190 miles over two days.”
Heller said he began riding, because he had heard about it through some friends and was by impressed with the amount of money they raised for the Jimmy Fund. He and his wife have had family affected by cancer and he wanted to make a difference.
Heller said he is currently in the “heavy” part of his training and hopes to complete about 1,100 miles before the PMC.
According to Heller, his team members get together to train every once in a while. However, as a part of Team Courage-Coneheads, Heller must be dedicated to riding even when he’s alone. He frequently rides through Southington, Chesire and Berlin.
Some of the Team Courage-Coneheads members come from other states like Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts and upstate New York. The team is led by Burns & McDonnell in Wallingford.
Between working with a devoted team and supporting a good cause, Heller has become committed to the PMC bike-a-thon.
“I’ll ride this event as long as I can ride a bike,” said Heller.