Archive 2008 - 2019

Committed to a Cure

by Katie Connors

Local residents committed to the Pan Mass Challenge to raise money for the Dana Farber's Jimmy Fund the first August weekend. 

back row, l-r:  Jack Connors, Kevin Wehmhoefer, Paul Gillespie, Will McColl, Pam McColl

front row, Bud Dodge, Donald Fried-Tanzer.

Kevin Wehmhoefer sports a black t-shirt with the words “Commit: You’ll figure it Out” in turquoise across the front. That phrase captures the spirit of the Pan Mass Challenge, which he and many other Holliston residents committed to months ago. Riders all over town have been training in the early morning and hot afternoons all summer. A cross-state fundraising event for Dana Farber’s Jimmy Fund, the PMC is one of the largest and most successful charity athletic events in the country. It takes place every summer on the first weekend in August and runs from Sturbridge to Provincetown, MA.

Everyone has their reasons to ride.

Kevin rides in memory of his mother in law, his father and in celebration of his wife Laura’s brave and successful fight against breast cancer. For Joanne and Kevin O’Connell, the motivation is to help fund a cure for childhood leukemia, which took one of their beautiful sons, Timothy, at age 10 in 2008. For Jack Connors, Bud Dodge and others, the ride is a way to remember parents and other loved ones who fought against various cancers. Bud shared stories of being inspired by not only the courage of cancer patients but also by the generosity of awesome riders who got him interested. Bud’s father in law started riding at age 58 in an event to raise funds for Anchor House, a home for orphans. When Bud realized he could make a difference for cancer by cycling, he was hooked.

Christine and Jonathan Baker and Pam and Will McColl have been involved in the ride for years and have ridden on Team Kathi in the past, a group formed to honor Holliston resident Kathi McCumber, who died several years ago. This year Christine and Pam are riding and Will is a PMC volunteer. The McColls ride with renewed urgency this year as they hope for remission for Pam’s sister in law, suffering with colon cancer in Connecticut.

Some of the Holliston riders and their spouses gathered at the Dodge home recently, sharing reminiscences of the folks they ride for, and tales of the road; everyone has a funny flat tire story or a “caught in a thunderstorm” story—just last week Connors and Wehmhoefer had to abort a long ride when torrential rains forced them back home. One of the hallmarks of the PMC is the spirited and uplifting tone of the event, and the comaraderie that builds between strangers united in fighting a common enemy. All along the route there are cheerleaders and cancer survivors urging the riders on, and every rest stop and lunch stop has music, food, medical help and bike repair experts. Every detail is taken care of so that the riders can focus on the ride itself.

The athleticism and endurance needed for this very demanding ride is what first pulled Paul Gillespie into the event; as an accomplished and speedy cyclist, it was a challenge he wanted to take on. Having since seen close friends fight cancer, Paul has been motivated by more than his miles-per-hour; like all the riders, he feels gratified by the difference this fundraising makes to research. Donated money is unemcumbered by government restrictions and can go directly to experimental research that is cutting edge medicine.

Donald Fried-Tanzer, a relatively new rider in the PMC, embodies the terrific spirit of it; he has moved from being tentative about being able to finish to being a devoted rider whose dedication to training is truly admirable. Whenever he can’t be located, his family just assumes he’s “out on the bike again.” As Kevin Wehmhoefer said, the PMC is great proof that most of us “have no idea what we can do.” The PMC gives us hope that if this many people can bike 192 miles, suffering “rubber legs” and “burning butt,” maybe we can find a cure for cancer, too.

To make an online pledge to a rider, go to and search for the rider’s personal fundraising page. Checks made out to PMC can also be sent to individuals.