Five Wiltonians will ride to fight cancer
Wilton residents Bruce Likly, Jeff Farrar, Thomas Schneider, Brian Lynch and Jeff Thompson will join more than 6,200 cyclists in raising money for cancer research and treatment during the 2017 Pan-Mass Challenge in Massachusetts, Aug. 5-6.
For the annual bike-a-thon, which raises money to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, cyclists ranging in age from 15 to 84 choose from 12 routes of varying mileage that run through 46 towns.
It will not be the first time the five Wiltonians have participated in the challenge. This year will be Farrar’s 10th Pan-Mass, Likly, Schneider and Lynch’s fourth, and Thompson’s second.
All five have signed up to ride for two days. Likly, Farrar, Lynch and Schneider will ride 192 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown, Mass., and Thompson will ride 170 miles from Wellesley to Provincetown, Mass.
“There are over 6,000 riders, and I’ve made friends with several,” said Likly, who first heard about the event from his brother-in-law who lives in Massachusetts. Likly told The Bulletin he and Farrar have ridden portions of the Pan-Mass Challenge together a few times.
“He [Farrar] rides with a great team that is easy to spot because they all ride with small stuffed lobsters attached to their helmets,” said Likly.
Farrar said when he first started participating in the challenge, he sponsored his friend, Kevin, from Massachusetts.
“We were officers in the U.S. Coast Guard together,” said Farrar. ”One year, he called and said he was transferred to Alaska so I no longer needed to sponsor him — but I needed to take his place. I was turning 40 that year and accepted the challenge.”
Farrar rides with Team Brent, formed in honor of a boy named Brent who was diagnosed at the age of 2 with stage IV neuroblastoma in September 2004.
According to Team Brent’s Pan-Mass profile page, Brent has been disease-free for 11 years, “but the fight goes on.”
“Team Brent was mostly local Fairfield County folks initially, but word of mouth has spread to include people from New York City, and even Massachusetts,” said Farrar.
“The founding couple, Dana and Mike McCreesh, live in Southport and Brent is their son.”
As for the toy lobsters, Farrar said, Pan-Mass teams adopt something to put on their helmets so they can find one another.
“One year, a rider gave Brent a lobster as a gift, and it just kind of grew from there,” he said.
Team Brent has partnered with doctors from Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School to effectively allocate the money it raises to target neuroblastoma.
Funds raised by the team this year will go to studies and trials to “attack the disease from multiple angles.” The first $80,000 will be used to to hire a full-time neuroblastoma program manager to support the work being done.
According to his Pan-Mass profile page, Thompson rides in memory of his friend who was treated at Dana-Farber, lived an extra year in remission, but ultimately lost his battle with cancer.
“He and I shared the hope that the odds continue to improve in the future,” Thompson wrote. “With our help, yours, mine and many others, we can continue to enable innovation and creation of solutions that will lead to cures to cancer.”
The Pan-Mass Challenge is “an amazingly well run event” that is difficult but “a lot of fun,” said Likly, who is preparing by riding “almost every day that it isn’t raining.”
Likly said he chose to dedicate his time and energy to Pan-Mass because 100% of rider-raised funds go to cancer research and patient care.
“I’ve never seen another event that is able to claim and do this,” he said.
“I know that the effort I expend and the donations people make on my behalf are going directly to where they are needed most. That means a lot to me and to donors.”
Farrar said “everyone knows someone who has been impacted by cancer,” and the Pan-Mass Challenge is his way of being part of something bigger than himself and helping others.
The Pan-Mass Challenge has raised $547 million for Dana-Farber since 1980, and this year’s fund-raising goal is $48 million.
As of July 18, the five Wilton residents raised more than $10,000, and Team Brent raised more than $115,000.
To make a financial contribution to a rider, visit profile.pmc.org and enter his or her name.