When first-time rider Zach Smith of Rochester prepared for the 197-mile Pan Mass bike ride across most of the state of Massachusetts in support of the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber, he didn’t really know what to expect.
“The weekend started off with mixed emotions,” said Smith, who joined the locally based Team oN A Mission for the ride. “As I headed to Sturbridge on Friday night, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into as a first-time rider – but I was excited for the journey.”
If Smith was at first unsure about his decision to ride from western Massachusetts to the tip of the Cape in Provincetown, his conscience was finally put at ease somewhere around Dennis, about midway through the team’s second and final day on the road.
“There was a girl, about seven or eight, holding a poster-board with a hole cut out of the middle where she put her face through,” Smith said. “The sign said something to the effect of ‘I’m a survivor because you’re doing this.’ After seeing that, I realized I’ll be riding in the Pan Mass for many years to come.”
Most of the members of Team oN A Mission, who raised $16,770 in last year’s event, are from the Tri-Town area, including Sarah Marchisio, a friend of Smith’s, who started the team in memory of her mother Nancy (the N-A-M in the team’s name), who passed away from cancer in 2010. After going out to support Marchisio last year (who was riding with only one friend at the time), Smith and his sister Abbey, a friend of Sarah’s, decided to join the team … and a few other friends did, too.
That list now includes: Marchisio’s brother Chris, Haydon Bergeron, Nolan Bergeron, Kaitlyn O’Brien, Amanda White of Rochester, Colbey Stabell of Marion, Cam Severino of Mattapoisett, Kate Peucker (who started the team with Marchisio, along with Bill Tilden of Marion, who is the Athletic Director at Old Rochester Regional High School).
Smith said that the ride was an honor because of the different people involved, whether survivors or supporters of the fight against cancer.
“It was truly an amazing experience riding for a cause with so many inspiring people,” he said. “Seeing the ones who have battled and are still battling cancer took all of the pain away.”
Abbey said that she and the team owe a lot of credit to Sarah and Chris for all they’ve been through and continue to do, as well as just for being great, positive people all around.
“They really show to the community what strength looks like,” she said. “There hasn’t been a time when I was with them that they were not smiling.”
Each member of Team oN A Mission set a personal goal of $4,300 to donate with a grand total of $51,600 for the team, and while Zach Smith has not yet raised his full share, he’s still committed to reaching that goal. He said that anyone who wishes to donate to his or his team’s cause could visit his fundraising page for more information.
“I cannot thank the supporters, my family and friends who were with me the whole way,” said Smith. “This disease has affected everyone in one way or another, and I am asking for any help I can get in achieving my fundraising goal. Any amount helps!”
For more information on Team oN A Mission and to donate, visit www2.pmc.org/profile/tg0112.
By Nick Walecka