Riding for a cure

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The tail end of the peloton heads out from the start in Ocean Park. More than 80 cyclists of all abilities rode in this year's Pan-Martha Challenge. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The first riders completed Saturday’s 50-mile Pan-Martha Challenge in just under two-and-a-half hours, their sweat mixing with the satisfaction of having helped to raise thousands of dollars for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. As more cyclists filed into the finish, they were ushered into the welcoming air conditioner of the Park Corner Bistro in Oak Bluffs, where cold beers and hors d’oeuvres complemented the contentment of having pedaled through sweltering heat for such a charitable cause.

The event was a great success, with over 80 riders registering, a seven-fold increase from the dozen riders who rode in the first Pan-Martha Challenge last October. The event was the brainchild of John Pasquina, who manages Martha’s Vineyard Pedicab along with his brother, Will Pasquina. The pedicabs have no fixed rates, operating off of donations with a percentage of the tip going directly to cancer research. Looking for a way to raise more money, John Pasquina drew inspiration from the fundraising successes of the Pan-Mass Challenge, which is the single largest weekend fundraiser in the country. Along with director Jenn Warden, the brothers set about mobilizing the community, finding sponsors, and acquiring the permits that would get the gears in motion.

One of the riders on Saturday was Kevin Murphy, who first biked the Pan-Mass Challenge 12 years ago when his parents were sick with cancer. He started Newburyport Pedicab four years ago in an effort to raise more money for the Pan-Mass Challenge. He found that it would raise more money to trust in the charitable goodwill of the customer than to ask a flat rate. Will Pasquina worked as a rider at the Newburyport Pedicab before Mr. Murphy tapped him to open the Martha’s Vineyard Pedicab with his brother John.

“Everyone has a cancer story, and it’s the one charity that really does touch everyone,” said Mr. Murphy. “Will and John have been inspired. You have to have that charitable spirit and they have it. They’re great guys, willing to get behind a good cause, and it’s great for us.”

The route of the Challenge headed west through the ups of up-island reaching all the way to the Gay Head lighthouse in Aquinnah before traveling back to Oak Bluffs. The ride was made more arduous by the overbearing sun, which forced the riders to dig deep and remember who they were biking for as they set about summitting the hills of Chilmark.

“This event was amazing and hot,” said Eric Blake, the Oak Bluffs police chief who participates in the Pan-Mass Challenge, and who rode on Saturday. “It was well put together, the bikers had great etiquette and the drivers on the road were great. With this cause, you know that with every mile you go you’re turning death sentences to life expectancies and getting closer to a cure.” He described meeting a child suffering from cancer whose courage convinced Chief Blake that nothing mattered but getting a cure.

One hundred percent of the money raised through the Pan-Martha Challenge goes to the Pan-Mass challenge, and from there, straight to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. There are no overhead costs, the entire fundraiser being put on by devoted volunteers and charitable local businesses. Nectars and Flatbread provided a live music pre-race dinner event, with a cut of all tickets and pizza purchases going directly to the fundraiser. Park Corner Bistro provided end-of-the-race victuals. The Newes donated a large batch of tasty root beers, and Martha’s Vineyard Online, Squash Meadow Construction, Cape Cod Retractable Screens-N-Shutters, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank and Eco MV rounded out the list of sponsors.