WEST ORANGE, NJ – Amy Hall-Oliver’s excitement about participating in her first Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) bike-a-thon at the age of 40 came to a screeching halt in January of 2017 when she suffered a stroke. Refusing to allow this setback to prevent her from honoring her father by riding in the event, this West Orange resident has fully recovered and has gotten her doctor’s permission to ride in the August 2018 PMC in Massachusetts.
Hall-Oliver has dreamed about being part of the nation’s single largest athletic fundraising event since 2010 when her husband, Shaun, rode the PMC in memory of her father, Steve Hall, an avid cyclist and skier. She always wanted to ride the PMC to honor her father in the same way, but with two kids at home, she pushed it off—and then the stroke happened.
Although that could have been the end of her dream, she pushed forward and is currently training to ride in the two-day PMC, which begins in Sturbridge, MA on Aug. 4. Hall-Oliver has her doctor’s permission to ride on the first day, which goes to approximately the halfway point of the 192-mile ride. When day one ends in Bourne, MA, the riders will stay at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy before moving onto Provincetown on the second day.
Hall-Oliver, who works in marketing and public relations for JAG Physical Therapy in West Orange, spoke about how it meaningful it is for her to help raise funds for a bike-a-thon that, with the support of passionate riders, has raised more than $598 million for adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. More than $51 million was raised in 2017 alone, she said, and the PMC has a goal of raising $52 million for Dana-Farber this year. PMC generates 50 percent of the annual revenue of the Jimmy Fund, which supports the institute.
“I have already surpassed my $4000 goal with the support of family, friends and old co-workers who responded to my posting about the event on Facebook,” said Hall-Oliver. “Right now, I’ve raised $5,150, and it would be great to raise even more for this worthy cause. Anyone who wants to support me can donate by going to www.profile.pmc.org/AH0222.”
Hall-Oliver said that overcoming the challenge caused by her stroke has additional resonance for her, because her father died in 2009 after suffering a heart attack following a bicycle race. This family history concerns her husband, kids and mother, she said, but they are all supportive of her participating in this summer’s bike-a-thon.
She added that she is fortunate her stroke was a minor one, explaining that she was back to work within two weeks and has gradually returned to her athletic lifestyle. In addition to being a bicyclist, Amy is an avid skier, soccer player and a personal trainer. She currently exercises regularly at CycleBar Livingston, and is following the doctor’s advice to take an aspirin every day.
In order to train for the upcoming bike-a-thon, Hall-Oliver has been taking her longest rides on the weekends. She said her furthest ride to date has been approximately 40 miles—a distance that she will more-than double on the first day of the bike-a-thon.
“I am riding to honor my father and mother-in-law, Cheryl, who passed away two years ago,” she said. “She had two bouts of breast cancer. I want to honor them both by helping this cause. Dana-Farber is the place to go for people battling cancer.”
Her husband and kids, 8-year old Casey and 4-year old Logan, will be among the thousands of people cheering on the riders in August. Hall-Oliver said she is looking forward to seeing them rooting for her at the bike-a-thon’s water stops, where they plan to meet. Her daughter, Casey, is a student at St. Cloud Elementary School in West Orange.
A native of Boston, Hall-Oliver said she is also looking forward to being part of her home state’s sports scene.
“I’m a big Boston sports fan,” she said. “I love the Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots.”
When asked if she has any hesitancy about being in the bike-a-thon only a year and a half after her stroke, Amy said, “It’s now or never.”
“Life is too short,” she said. “I want to get this goal in while I can. I’m crossing it off my bucket list.
“This is my first Pan-Mass Challenge, and I’m so excited, as it is something I have wanted to accomplish for many years now. Yet I’m terrified all at the same time. But after seeing my husband, Shaun Oliver, complete the ride, I saw how thrilling and inspiring the event is. My goal is to finish.”
Hall-Oliver is pictured with her bicycle above, preparing to participate in the PMC bike-a-thon.