Alan Bauer started riding his bike to raise money for cancer research after a close friend passed away from cancer, inspired by a friend who rode in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) bike-a-thon a year prior.
“I had a fellow pretty close to me that passed away of cancer in 2001,” Bauer said. “I was visiting him in the hospital, and spent time with him up to the point of him passing. So in 2002 I signed up for the first ride, a two-day ride.” Now, 21 years later, Bauer will do a “reimagined ride” on the Island for this year’s PMC, a self-supported ride tailored to the abilities of the individual rider.
Bauer is not alone, as upwards of 20 Island residents will take part in this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge for its 43rd year, as part of its 6,000 participants and 4,000 to 5,000 volunteers, raising money for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. This event will be the first traditional Pan-Mass weekend since 2019, in light of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. But with lingering effects and logistical challenges, many of the other Island residents will also do a “reimagined ride” for the event. This year’s PMC is August 6 and 7.
Traditionally, the cycling event will consist of 16 routes, from 25 to 211 miles, designed to accommodate varying cycling skill levels. Out of the riders and volunteers, 950 are participating as a current cancer patient or survivor, and 150 are participating as Dana-Farber employees, sometimes funding their own cancer research. Most of PMC’s riders are also participating as a way to honor a friend or family battling cancer. There is also a smaller portion of riders or volunteers from Dana-Farber that participate as committed members of the cause.
Up until three years ago, Bauer did the traditional ride, and inspired a couple of other people to participate with him. One of these people was his son, Andrew, who was a DJ as a teenager, and played at one of the rest stops for the ride around 2007. His son even rode with him for a couple of years, and is now an EMT who volunteers for PMC in the road crew for the ride. Alongside Andrew and Alan, Bauer recruited one of his friends from Maryland, Brian Wessner, to ride with them in 2008. Their team name that year was the “Yellow Sox,” named from the highlighter yellow socks Bauer accidentally wore on their ride that ended up keeping the team together through dense fog. The next year, they all wore the same bright yellow socks, but intentionally.
The past two years, however, he did a reimagined ride on Island, starting in Oak Bluffs and going to Chilmark before going to the southern part of the Island and out to Katama in a circuit. For this year, Bauer plans to take part in this year’s PMC with an extra reimagined “ride” for his 21st year, after a hand surgery in May threw a wrench in the planning and training of this year’s ride and routes. But with some setbacks, Bauer was still dedicated to finding a way to raise money and support the cause. “I can’t grab the handlebars, so I decided to be even more reimagined and do a hike.” Bauer now plans to do a 20-mile hike around the Island, going 10 miles each day over the course of two days. His goal for this year is to raise $2,000, and he’s already at $1,490.
The Times spoke with another rider from the Island, Everett Bramhall, who is gearing up for his own reimagined ride this year, for his 22nd year with PMC. Bramhall started in 2001, remembering that there were only about 2,000 riders at the time, with now up to 6,000. Bramhall did the traditional ride for 19 years, with the past three years doing the reimagined ride on Island, which he said he prefers due to easier logistics and beautiful routes. Even though he has moved away from doing the traditional PMC ride, he said, “As long as I can, I’m going to keep riding it.” He noted that some riders are in their 80s or 90s.
For this year, Bramhall will do another reimagined ride on the Island with a group of 20 other PMC riders, starting at Alley’s General Store at 6:30 am and riding 85 miles. He said, “We try to get around the Island, which we do.” Bramhall also said that while the group all starts together, every rider is different, and usually, they end up in groups of five or six. The team also takes rest stops along the way, and in the past, longtime PMC riders have opened their homes to them for this.
Bramhall is riding for Stacy Valhouli, a longtime close family friend and his wife Judy’s dearest friend. Valhouli was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma this year. Bramhall tells The Times that the two brought their kids up together, and she is “one of those moms in your life doing the same thing when you were.” Valhouli and Judy are going to ride in the PMC this year, together with four to five other of their girlfriends, doing a 25-mile route from Babson College to Foxborough Stadium.
For a number of years, Bramhall rode in the PMC for his business partner, Mark Hazel. For years not dedicated to Hazel or Valhouli, in the case of this year, Bramhall rides for other close friends: “Generally they are just somebody who I am close to in my life and has made a difference to me.” His goal is to raise $20,000 this year, and he will send follow-up updates throughout and after his ride, reminding people that donations aren’t due until October, so there is plenty of opportunity to donate.
As an athletic fundraiser, PMC donates 100 percent of every dollar raised to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and has raised more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country, according to a PMC fact sheet shared with The Times. The event yields riders and volunteers for 47 states and 11 countries. The goal for this year is to break last year’s fundraising record of $66 million, contributing to the $831 million total that has been raised for Dana-Farber. Additionally, this year, an anonymous PMC couple has set a new fundraising challenge, matching every PMC rider registration fee for 2022 for up to $2 million, all going to Dana-Farber as a gift.
For more information on the Pan-Mass Challenge, to donate, participate, and learn more about the riders and why they ride, visit pmc.org. To see Bramhall’s rider profile, visit profile.pmc.org/EB0048. And for Bauer’s, go to profile.pmc.org/AB0109.