Local Residents Prepare For Pan-Mass Challenge

By: Kira Barrett

Topics: Benefits

A Pan-Mass Challenge rider.  COURTESY PHOTO

This year, the annual Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) will take place on Aug. 5 and 6, and local riders are getting in shape for the event.

Cyclists from across the country will be participating in the bike-a-thon, which ranges from 25 to 192 miles, depending on the route. Among those riding this year are Chatham residents Paul Potash and Al Etre and Harwich residents Jennifer Hastings, Melissa Morse and Steven Conner.

The PMC has helped to raise tremendous funds for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since 1980. Last year, they raised an impressive $47 million.

For those involved, the challenge is a deeply personal event. Chatham resident Al Etre is a paraplegic who is also currently battling prostate cancer. He participated in the PMC in 2010, 2011 and 2013, and will be riding again this year alongside his best friend and supporter Mike Sirece.

While being treated at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, Etre’s friends and family surprised him with a tadpole bike, specifically designed for paraplegics to use. “That’s what got me started back on the bicycle,” Etre said. Despite also receiving radiation treatment for his cancer, Etre finds motivation from other riders. “There’s one guy who has one leg he lost to cancer,” he said. “I was riding and he would pass me and it would be so inspirational.”

Paul Potash, another Chatham resident, will be participating in this year’s PMC for the 21st time. Like Etre, the cause is a personal one to him. “I had skin cancer. It was just minor, so I consider myself lucky. There are a lot of people that aren’t as fortunate,” Potash said. Within the PMC, Potash is a part of a team called the Patriot Platelet Peddlers, sponsored by the New England Patriots football team.

“The hard part’s raising the money”, Potash explained. In order to ride, each participant must raise between $500 and $7,800 from sponsors, depending on their route.

Melissa Morse, a resident of Harwich, will be riding in this year’s PMC for the third consecutive time. A breast cancer survivor and former patient of Dana Farber, Morse said that the challenge is an incredible example of the resiliency of the human body. “It’s a cause that’s very near and dear to my heart”, she said. “I thank the community. That is one thing that is very emotional every year.”

Frequent stops will be made for food and water, and medical assistance and bike repairs will be on hand for the riders. As it spans two days, all participants will stay overnight in previously arranged accommodation. There will be three starting lines located in Sturbridge, Wellesley and Bourne, and five finish lines in Bourne, Wellesley, Foxboro and two in Provincetown.

This year’s goal is to raise $48 million; one million more than was raised last year. For more information, visit www.pmc.org

On Saturday, participants will set out on their bikes with an even greater common goal in mind: to put a stop to cancer, once and for all.