SPRINGFIELD, NJ - What do you get when you take 6,000 cyclists from 41 states and seven countries, and put them in a two-day charity bike ride across Massachusetts? The answer is the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), an event that has been going on since 1980.
Since its founding by Billy Starr, the event, which falls on August 4 and 5 this year has raised over $598 million dollars for cancer research. Another unique aspect of the charity ride is that 100 percent of fundraising goes to the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, which distributes the money raised to associate charities for research and advocacy about childhood and adult cancers.
But for the last eight years going on nine, this international fundraising event has had a distinctly local feel.
Scott Kessel, who was born and raised in Springfield and currently resides in Livingston said he rides in the event for his Wife’s mother Effie, who passed away from pancreatic cancer. His team, which is named for Effie, also rides in memory of his wife’s uncle Don, who passed away from cancer as well. Team Effie currently has about 30 members.
While Kessel never got to meet Effie, he said she is there in spirit as their team mascot, Tigger. Kessel said that even during her illness, Effie embodied Tigger's personality about being positive, optimistic and leaving a legacy in the world
While the event is a two-day ride, Kessel and his team will ride for just the first day, a 110-mile journey from Sturbidge to Bourne, Massachussetts. Kessel said that when it comes to the ride each year, there’s a point in every journey where he hits the wall.
“It’s not so much a mental wall, it’s more of a physical wall [for me],” Kessel said. “Most riders train every year, they go out for bike rides and they do 15, 20, 30-mile rides. I personally don’t train at all during the year so for myself it’s a little bit of a hard journey. I just kind of use my willpower and I just get by and I ride the 110 miles.”
Kessel added that seeing his parents, wife and three young children at the finish line is a great feeling for him and also helps him to push through on his rides.
For Kessel and the other riders, staying together is the name of the game. While there are elite cyclists in the pack who will finish in a shorter amount of time, Kessel said that his goal is to make sure everyone in the pack finishes. That means allowing time for food and water stops if a rider is looking fatigued while out on the course.
When it comes to collecting donations for the ride, Kessel said that each rider in the field has a minimum fundraising goal to meet, and that there are multiple ways to raise the money for that goal. Kessel said that donations often come from a variety of different avenues.
“Every rider has to raise a minimum of $4,000 dollars,” he said. “The way we get donations is by sending out emails to family, friends, coworkers and we also get money from sponsors. We have our team jerseys and on our team jerseys we put the names of our sponsors.”
So far, in all their years riding, Team Effie has raised $270,000 dollars and hopes to raise another $60,000 this year.
And when asked about his future plans for the PMC ride, Kessel said that he plans to keep doing this for a long time.
“This is my ninth year involved,” Kessel said. “My first year I was solely a volunteer, but this is my eighth year riding and I plan on doing this for the near future. I don’t plan on stopping, and as long as we can continue to raise the money, I will ride.”
To learn more about Scott’s journey, or to donate to his ride, visit his personal page: http://www.pmc.org/profile/SK0164