This weekend, Jack O’Riordan, 15 of Brewster, will leave his post as the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge’s most famous fan to become a first-year rider.
Most PMCers are familiar with Jack as the young boy who has been present at the Brewster waterstop for the past 12 years holding a sign that declares his age and gratitude to PMCers for riding to raise money for cancer research and treatment.
“Thank you! I’m 14 because of you!” read the sign he held last August. And the year before that, the sign read, “Thank you! I am 13 because of you!” The year before that … “Thank you! I am 12 because of you!” and back it went to 1998, when Jack was just three years old. “Thank you! I am 3 because of you!” read his sign that first year.
Riders have stopped in their tracks and cried when they saw Jack who still looked a little sick holding his sign of gratitude. As he grew each year, so did his fame and his importance to the PMC. Annually, PMCers say they wait with baited breath until they reach the Brewster water stop and see Jack holding his sign. His presence is a literal and physical sign that their fundraising dollars are working to save lives.
Although Jack’s mother, Chris, had been a part of the PMC since she was a child, as her grandfather ran the first PMC waterstop in Brewster back in 1983, and she had been a volunteer for 11 years, “The moment I saw people crying because of his sign, I understood what the PMC meant to everyone involved. I finally got it,” she said.
O’Riordan was one-year-old when he was diagnosed with Wilm’s tumor. At the time, he was the sixth child with the disease in the country. In 1996, a regular doctor’s check-up revealed a large mass in Jack’s abdomen. After further screenings at Children’s Hospital inBoston, doctors found a grapefruit sized tumor in his left kidney. O’Riordan underwent surgery to have the tumor and his left kidney removed.
Although he was part of a clinical trial, an x-ray months later revealed 10 more tumors in his lungs.
O’Riordan was immediately admitted into Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic to undergo radiation treatments five days a week, for two weeks. Then he underwent 54 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy treatments for the next year.
O’Riordan was nearly three-years-old when he finally completed his treatments and began his PMC career.
Today, at the age of 15, O’Riordan has been cancer free for six years. O’Riordan is also finally old enough to ride in his first PMC.
“I’ve been waiting for this day since I learned how to ride a bike,” says O’Riordan. “I want to give back to the community who has supported me by riding in honor of me for the last few years. I also want to let other kids battling cancer know that there is hope and giving up should never be an option.”
This year at the Brewster waterstop, PMCers who make their usual visit to see Jack will instead find a life-sized photo of him that reads: “I’m 15 and riding thanks to all of you”
Jack O’Riordan aims to raise $5,000 for the PMC. To donate to Jack O’Riordan’s ride, visit his PMC profile page.