Wilton cyclist completes 7th Pan-Mass Challenge

Tom Schneider competed for the seventh time in the Pan-Mass Challenge to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Tom Schneider competed for the seventh time in the Pan-Mass Challenge to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Contributed photo

WILTON — The ride was different but the result was the same.

Tom Schneider of Wilton participated in his seventh Pan-Mass Challenge cycling ride, but like many fundraising events this year, it was a do-it-yourself program. Normally, participants pedal 200 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown, Mass., to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, but this year, everyone chose their own course to ride the first weekend of August.

So the ride was different — Schneider rode 131 miles on Friday, July 31, and 72 miles on Saturday, Aug. 1. But the result was not. As of Monday, he had raised a little under $11,000, well within reach of his goal of $13,000. Raising the money, after all, is the point.

“It’s still the ride,” Schneider said Monday. “It’s the money I want to raise. … it’s a passion of mine.”

There were some positives to doing the ride this way, he said. Instead of getting on the road in the dark at 4:30 a.m. in Sturbridge, he left his Wilton home at 7 on Friday, saying to himself, “I’m just going to go as far as I can.”

That was 131 miles — more than the 100 he planned. There were some bumps — primarily in the form of a flat tire that took about 20 minutes to fix — and there was the lack of camaraderie that occurs when thousands of people participate in the same event.

“You miss the camaraderie … it’s always fun because you’re running through these towns and people come out and cheer you on. We pass high schools where they have cheerleaders and bands. Here, you’re doing it by yourself,” he said.

Schneider said he saw only one other 2020 Pan-Mass jersey on his two-day ride.

On the positive side of the virtual ride is the fact he did not have to make the eight-hour journey home afterwards. When he finished on Saturday, he had the rest of the day to himself.

Seven years

This is Schneider’s seventh year riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge. Before he took it up, he used to ride in the CT Challenge, which raises money to help cancer survivors. But he supported a few friends who rode in the Pan-Mass for a few years. The Pan-Mass is different than the CT Challenge in that it is two days, as opposed to one, and there is a minimum amount each rider must pledge to raise.

“I finally bit the bullet and figured I could raise the minimum,” Schneider said, estimating that would have been about $5,000.

“The first year I did it, I said, ‘I’m pumped.’” He’s gone back every year and increased the amount he’s raised to where now he’s raised more than $10,000 for the past several years. He’s raised a total of more than $54,000.

Now, he said of riding in these types of events, “This is the one time of the year I go out. I’m sending out my recap and final appeal to get my extra $2,000 to get my goal.”

Raising money for cancer research is important to Schneider, who shared that he lost three friends to cancer this year and another is in hospice care. They have died from breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and bone cancer.

“The reality is cancer is hitting people you know directly,” he said. Several may have been sick for a while, “but these are contemporaries. When someone you know directly is affected and you see what they and their families have gone through, it makes it that much more impactful.

“It just hits home and makes you that much more self-aware,” he said.

“Riding is a passion and riding to raise money for cancer research is a passion, too.”

The annual cycling event, now in its 41st year, supports research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Participants helped raise $63 million last year for a cumulative amount of over $717 million since 1980. The 2020 goal is $65 million.

To make a contribution in Schneider’s name, visit https://donate.pmc.org/.