The Pan-Mass Challenge is the most successful athletic fundraising event in the nation. The event features a bike-a-thon that crosses much of Massachusetts. A typical year will find 5,500 to 6,000 cyclists and 3,000 volunteers participating in the event. Over 34 years the it has raised $414 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; $1.2 million of that sum came from the efforts of two East Chop families. Both families have each raised more than $600,000.
Twenty-five years ago, as Linc Cornell was preparing to become a father for the first time, he kept thinking about a girl in his second grade class who had died of brain cancer. He was also a devoted cyclist. When he learned about the Jimmy Fund and the Pan-Mass Challenge, it was a perfect fit. He rode that first year to honor his second grade classmate. This year he will ride for his sister in law, Athina Cornell, who is recovering from breast cancer.
Five years after Linc’s first ride, wife Lois joined his team. “Between the two of us we send out five hundred letters. We have twenty-five members on our team, which includes our son Ben and Linc’s brother Michael. Each team member has a separate fundraising effort. A lot of work is involved in all of this.” Lois has recently added to her workload by joining the Pan-Mass board of directors.
For Linc, the PMC provides him with a way to give back to people who have lost their fight with cancer. Lois agrees. “I love volunteering for this charity, but I’m also in it for the preparation. We will ride one hundred and ninety miles in two days. It takes me several months of preparation to do that.”
In addition to his work for the PMC, Linc organizes an annual golf tournament to benefit the Jimmy Fund at the Dedham Polo and Golf Club. The tournament is held on the day before the PMC ride. The tournament has raised over $50,000 for the Jimmy Fund over the 10 years of its existence.
For Erin and Ted Callahan the PMC is a family business. A year after their daughter Molly was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006, they had a team in place. Erin solicits donations through letters, emails and Facebook. Ted focuses on his business associates. Carol Patterson and Peter Hutton raise money as members of their team. But the main fundraising event is held by Joan and Mike Barlow, Ted’s sister and brother in law. Each year the Barlows host a party for 400 that includes food, a band and a silent auction, in addition to the required PMC donation.
The Callahan team will ride from Wellesley to Bourne on Saturday, August 3. After completing the 85-mile trek, they will continue riding another 15 miles to Falmouth with the goal of making the 4:30 Island Queen. The day ends with a celebratory party at the Callahan’s home on Monroe avenue.
Recently, after playing tennis with Jim Wooster, I learned that he, too, sponsors a team for the PMC. “Like so many people involved in the event, I love to ride, and it’s such a great charity. The best part is the people you meet. All the volunteers are positive, can-do people. The cancer survivors are inspirational. There is an incredible energy and spirit associated with the event.”
Both the Cornells and the Callahans will stay at it until they each raise over a million dollars for the PMC. If you would like to help push them over the top, a mere telephone call will do it. In addition, make sure to thank them for all of their hard work, if by chance you happen to bump into one of them. Cancer is becoming a less scary disease because of all their hard work.
On another matter, history was made at the East Chop Tennis Club on Saturday. Aidan Harris, at 13, became the youngest winner of the July men’s tournament. Aidan defeated Dr. Alex Walley 6-2, 6-1. People marveled at Aidan’s discipline and control throughout the match. Club manager Ned Fennessy spoke for many when he said: “That kid has a tremendous head for this game.”
In another historical first, the women’s singles finals featured a mother/daughter match. Mom Margaret Berzins outlasted daughter Caroline 6-4, 6-4. Margaret and Caroline then teamed up to win the women’s doubles, beating Jane Coe and Patty Willis 6-1, 6-3. It was an exciting Saturday at the ECTC.
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