Vineyarders ride in the Pan Mass Challenge to fight cancer


Five Vineyarders will leave the Island to ride their bicycles across Massachusetts in The Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) this Saturday and Sunday. The annual event raises money to fight cancer through rider sponsorships.

The cyclists’ motivations may vary from the simple cycling challenge to a way to pay tribute to a friend or family member. But all of the more than 5,000 participants are connected by their desire to help defeat cancer.

Susan Kerns Rosin of Vineyard Haven became involved in 2005 when she suggested that her children volunteer to help with the Pan-Mass Challenge instead of her giving her a Mother’s Day gift.

Ms. Rosin, who lived in Boxford at the time, also volunteered thinking it would be a good way to honor her mother who had died of cancer earlier in the year. For years she thought she would like to ride in the event. This year she will mount a bicycle for the first time.

A 1977 graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Ms. Rosin said she is well on her way to raising $4,300, the goal for the longest route, although her schedule will only allow her to ride one of the shorter routes. She has been getting out on her bike as often as she can to prepare, often riding the bike paths on the Vineyard.

Island attorney Jim Reynolds, 61, a principal partner at Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney, will be participating in his 18th PMC ride. His early PMC rides were done with a group of his friends from high school in Worcester who called themselves the Bczar Bstees (as in bizarre beasties).

Mr. Reynolds first rode the PMC after his brother-in-law, a young Navy pilot, died of cancer. He said that the support he has received from his Island contributors has been remarkable over the years. Mr. Reynolds said he tries to get out on his bike four times a week, riding 20 miles each time with longer rides on Saturdays from 30 to nrealy 80 miles as he gets in better shape, closer to the PMC.

Riding in his 4th PMC, Raymond Sylvia, an Oak Bluffs builder, plans to ride one of the one-day, 90-mile rides. He said that his son-in-law suggested he might want to try the PMC not too long after Mr. Sylvia’s mother died of cancer six years ago. He had not ridden a bike for any distance since high school. His son-in-law suffered an injury that prevented him from finishing the PMC ride, but Mr. Sylvia made it and keeps going back for more.

Scott Holmes moved to Oak Bluffs year-round two years ago. The 52-year-old cyclist works for a computer company sales organization. He will be riding in his seventh PMC.

He had not been on a bike much in “about 15 years” when his wife suggested he get a bike and stop complaining about not being in shape. While at a bicycle shop purchasing the new bicycle he learned about the PMC ride. He mentioned the ride to one of his friends who, he discovered, had already ridden the PMC. They formed a team called the “PMC Groundhog Express” out of Groton, where he used to live, which fluctuates between 7 and 12 people each year. Mr. Holmes said the Vineyard is a perfect place to train. “You don’t see much on the PMC that you don’t see here, the trees and small towns, the beaches and the up-island hills,” he said.

John Schilling, a 57-year-old insurance agent and Tisbury fire chief, has completed the PMC more times than anyone else in the Vineyard contingent. This will be his 21st straight ride. In his younger days he raced his bike in local races and participated in local bike events. One of his riding buddies told him about the PMC, “which was a pretty small scale event 20 years ago.

“I thought it would be a nice challenge to ride across the state in two days. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized what the event was about.”

He said the physical challenge quickly became secondary to the real cause. Mr. Schilling that his most memorable experiences are when he sees the signs of cancer survivors that say “I’m ten because of you,” and “I am here because of you.”

Over the past 32 years, PMC cyclists have raised $338 million to cancer research. PMC estimates that there will be 5,500 cyclists in this year’s ride. Their goal is to raise $36 million. Riders raise money in different amounts, between $500 and $4,300 this year. The fundraising goals are determined by the length of the rides. The funds go to support adult and pediatric cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund. The PMC claims to raise more money than any other athletic fundraising event in the country.

Cyclists choose from 11 routes of varying mileage designed to cater to all levels of cycling strength and fundraising ability. Riders can choose between six two-day routes that range from 153 to 190 miles and five one-day rides that range from 25 to 110 miles.

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