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Team Brielle’s Brigade

A glimpse into how one PMC team turns a negative into a positive with the spin of a wheel  

In the front row from left to right, Annette Werger, PNP, Brielle’s nurse practitioner; Tammy Laplante, Brielle’s mother, a PMC cyclist; Jaclyn Laplante, Brielle’s sister; Dr. Janeway, Brielle’s doctor; Ed Moses, Brielle’s uncle, a PMC cyclist; Marnie Salkovitz, RN, Brielle’s primary nurse;  Bill Laplante, Brielle’s father, a PMC cyclist. In the back row from left to right, Peter Pessolano, a family friend and a PMC cyclist; Glen Witwer, a family friend and a PMC cyclist; Bob Lupacchino, a family friend and neighbor, a PMC cyclist; Paul Cicco, a family friend and neighbor, a PMC cyclist; Stu Ferm, a family friend and a PMC cyclist.

In the front row from left to right, Annette Werger, PNP, Brielle’s nurse practitioner; Tammy Laplante, Brielle’s mother, a PMC cyclist; Jaclyn Laplante, Brielle’s sister; Dr. Janeway, Brielle’s doctor; Ed Moses, Brielle’s uncle, a PMC cyclist; Marnie Salkovitz, RN, Brielle’s primary nurse; Bill Laplante, Brielle’s father, a PMC cyclist. In the back row from left to right, Peter Pessolano, a family friend and a PMC cyclist; Glen Witwer, a family friend and a PMC cyclist; Bob Lupacchino, a family friend and neighbor, a PMC cyclist; Paul Cicco, a family friend and neighbor, a PMC cyclist; Stu Ferm, a family friend and a PMC cyclist.

Inspired by the courageous fight and love of a little girl from East Longmeadow, Mass., Team Brielle’s Brigade continues to turn a negative situation into a positive by riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge.

The team’s PMC journey began nine years ago when Brielle LaPlante, then 4, was diagnosed with leukemia. Consequently, Brielle’s diagnosis motivated her uncle, Edward Moses, 47 of Hampden, Mass. to form Team Brielle’s Brigade, a group of 12 PMC cyclists representing the LaPlante’s friends, family and neighbors. Sadly on the eve of this year’s PMC ride, after surviving leukemia twice Brielle’s cancer resurfaced in the form of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that spread to her lungs. In August 2012, Brielle, then 13, lost her battle to cancer.

“Brielle was a very strong and passionate person with a great sense of humor,” says Moses. “She loved to cook and play music. Her personality was just infectious.” 

Each year, Team Brielle’s Brigade embarks on the 190-mile PMC route from Sturbridge to Provincetown. As a warm-up, each Friday before the official ride begins, the team cycles from Hillsdale, NY through East Longmeadow, Mass., Brielle’s hometown, and on to Sturbridge which adds nearly 90 miles to their total weekend ride. Prior to the PMC, the team hosts two annual fundraising events: Team Brielle’s Brigade Cocktail Party and Silent Auction in Springfield, Mass. and Carnival for a Cure in Wilbraham, Mass. The team’s goal is to raise as much money as possible to help pediatric cancer patients like Brielle.

“The Pan-Mass Challenge is a wonderful opportunity to take a very difficult situation and turn it into a positive,” says Moses. “It is Brielle’s spirit that drives me and drives my team to continue to do everything we can to help people fighting cancer.”

Since Team Brielle’s Brigade’s inception, the team has raised more than $788,600. On Friday, Dec. 7, Team Brielle’s Brigade presented a check for $188,600 to Dr. Katherine A. Janeway, the pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who treated Brielle. The money the team raised will go directly to support Dr. Janeway’s research for pediatric sarcoma, the disease that took Brielle’s life.

The team is now gearing up for next year’s PMC ride. The 2013 PMC is set to take place on Aug. 3 and 4, 2013.

For more information, visit Team Brielle’s Brigade’s website: www.briellesbrigade.com.

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A keepsake for PMC cyclists, volunteers and supporters

PMC cyclists, volunteers, and supporters can still help raise money for the PMC by wearing their support on their wrists. With the limited edition PMC bead, specially designed by Confidence Beads™ to match the 2012 PMC jerseys, PMC supporters can continue to help raise money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Through Oct. 1, Confidence Beads™ will donate 20 percent of your purchase to a rider or PMC team of your choice.

The PMC bead is made of royal blue, lime green and silver Murano glass and is inscribed with “PMC 2012” on both sides in sterling silver. The PMC bead costs $40 and will fit on any of today’s popular bracelets and accessories. When purchasing from the Confidence Beads™ website, buyers can include a PMC Rider ID number at checkout to ensure that their donation will go directly to that individual’s or team’s fundraising efforts. And don’t miss the bracelets made of bike spokes!

The PMC beads and bracelets are a great way to celebrate your accomplishment, thank your sponsors, or recognize and honor someone’s PMC achievement. In case you missed them in Wellesley and Sturbridge, you can go to http://www.confidencebeads.com/pmc.html to order your keepsake today!

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Pan-Massachusetts Challenge drew 5,450 cyclists to ride for $36 million!

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC), the nation’s most successful athletic fundraising event, drew 5,450 cyclists from 36 states and nine countries to Massachusetts this past weekend. Undeterred by the heat, the cyclists rode up to 190 miles over one or two days with the goal of raising $36 million for adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The fundraising goal was set at an all-time high. The final sum raised will be announced in November, as money is still coming in and donations will be accepted until October 1, 2012. If the fundraising goal is met, the PMC’s 33-year gift to the Jimmy Fund will total $374 million.

“The PMC is unique in terms of the money our riders raise each year,” said Founder and Executive Director Billy Starr. “This group is passionate and committed. If any organization can reach this goal, it is the PMC.” The PMC typically draws up to 240,000 donors.

PMC weekend was emotionally moving. More than 3,000 volunteers cared for the needs of the riders, from preparing and serving food, filling water bottles, and providing massages, to offering medical and mechanical care, transporting luggage and cleaning up after riders traveled through the water stops. The camaraderie shared by cyclists, volunteers, and supporters was inspiring. Doctors at Dana-Farber joined their patients as teammates and rode together with a unified goal. About 320 of the PMC’s cyclists are cancer survivors or current patients. Thousands of riders have lost loved ones to the disease. Still more rode in honor of those in treatment.

U.S. Senators John Kerry (MA-D) and Scott Brown (MA-R) and U.S. Army Chief of Staff (retired) General George Casey were among the 5,450 cyclists who rode.

Senator John Kerry, PMC Founder and Executive Director, Billy Starr, and Senator Scott Brown

“PMC weekend was a great success,” Starr said. “We are grateful to all who rode, volunteered and provided financial support.” Misting tents and volunteers holding hoses and passing out water provided some relief from the humidity.

Connecting athleticism to charitable fundraising was a new idea in 1980 when Starr and 35 of his friends rode across Massachusetts and raised $10,200 for cancer research. Today, athletic events annually raise more than $5 billion, funding crucial programs at health and human service organizations. The PMC leads the pack and is the most efficient. The PMC annually contributes 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar directly to the Jimmy Fund.

Cyclists chose between 11 routes that ranged from 25 miles to 190 miles. Each committed to raising between $500 and $4,300 to be part of the PMC team. Typically, ninety percent of all PMCers exceed the minimum fundraising contribution and one-third raise more than twice the amount required.

The PMC was presented by the Red Sox Foundation and the New Balance Foundation. Another 200 companies supported the event through donations of goods, services and money. The PMC is nationally recognized as a model in fundraising efficiency; it generates 52 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and it is Dana-Farber’s largest contributor. “The PMC has made what we do at Dana-Farber possible,” said Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, president of Dana-Farber. For more information about the PMC, visit pmc.org.

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Non-athlete rises to the occasion in honor of nephew

Debi Fossati, 42, of Carmel, NY, is riding in her first PMC in honor of her nephew Ty, 4, who is being treated for an aggressive brain tumor.

Fossati is a PMC “Weekend Warrior,” having never played sports in high school or college, but through extensive training for the August event, she’s uncovered physical and emotional strengths that lie within.

Fossati is riding to raise necessary funds to support her nephew, and adult and pediatric cancer research and patient care for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.

Learn more about Fossati’s story here: Fueled by Hope

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Young Cancer Patients Honored at Fenway Park

On May 19 at Fenway Park, 70 Pedal Partners and the PMC cyclists who will ride in their honor met for the first time and together enjoyed a casual breakfast. Jenny the Juggler performed for the guests, and families and cyclists created posters that will adorn the PMC route. Bonds were formed and it will be exciting to watch how the friendships develop over the coming months and years.

The Pedal Partner Program offers an inspiring opportunity for PMC cyclists to connect with pediatric cancer patients who are being treated at The Jimmy Fund Clinic. For the children, being a PMC Pedal Partner is a positive and exciting experience that adds joy and love to their lives while they are being treated for cancer.

Corinne McCabe, of Westboro, and her daughter, Kayleigh, 8, a cancer survivor and former pedal partner, shared their inspiring story of how Kayleigh beat cancer after receiving seven months of chemotherapy and a liver transplant at The Jimmy Fund. Corinne is a four-time PMC cyclist.

Here is the story they shared:

“It is hard to believe that four years ago, we were a pedal partner family. The jersey that Kayleigh is wearing now went past her knees four years ago.

Our story begins on January 10, 2008. We were told by a team of doctors that our daughter, Kayleigh Rose, was one in a million. More specifically, one in one million children who would be diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma that year. The words that flowed out of the doctor’s mouth seemed to make time stand still. Her official diagnosis… stage 3 Hepatoblastoma. Everything in the room became a blur. I cried tears that were so incredibly painful. All I wanted to do was rewind time and go back to what we had just days before.

Our worst nightmare quickly became reality.  No parent ever wants to hear that their child has cancer, must endure 6 cycles of an aggressive chemo protocol AND receive a whole liver transplant in order to live.  

Gone were the days of soccer practices, play dates, preschool and trips to Target and the Disney Store… all of the little things that we took for granted suddenly became so valuable and were gone.

However, we grabbed the reigns of her cancer diagnosis and faced it head on. We took things one day at a time and lived it up for Kayleigh and our son, Michael’s sake.

Much of our time was spent at the Jimmy Fund clinic… waiting…  During one of these waiting periods which were filled with Wii games, arts and crafts, and hour long games of Connect Four, a cheery woman approached me. She asked me if I was familiar with the PMC and if we would be interested in having Kayleigh become a pedal partner for a PMC team. She explained what that entailed and then waited for my response. How I remember this day is a slight miracle. We walked around in such a cancer parent blur.  I hmmm’d and hawww’d over involving Kayleigh, because of not knowing what was in her future but also not being able to take on any other commitment at this time.  Then Kayleigh lifted her head from her craft and said, “I’d like to do that”. Little did I know when I signed that release, how much the PMC would impact our future with such positive light.

Fast forward a few months. Shortly after Kayleigh received her liver transplant, we received a call from Mike, captain of Team Legs. We spoke on the phone for quite some time about Kayleigh, shared stories about our families and agreed on a time to meet. Lucky for all of us, we lived on one of Mike’s training routes.

Kayleigh and Mike made an instant connection. His personality brought out Kayleigh’s humor, spunk and smiles.   Mike & his amazing family along with Team Legs, quickly became our extended family.

Team Legs gave Kayleigh such a unique form of support. They made her feel like she was at the center of their universe… they made her feel like a hero. They also made our son, Michael (age 9 at the time) feel like the true hero that he was and gave him so much needed support. Without knowing it, they gave Pat and me support, as well.  They were Krankin for Kayleigh and it meant the world to us!

Fast forward again a few months. Kayleigh was just finishing up treatment and Mike asked us if we’d like to participate in the Kids PMC ride in a neighboring town.  We immediately registered our son, Michael. Throughout Kayleigh’s treatment he desperately wanted to be a part of something… he wanted to do anything to help Kayleigh. Like the rest of us, he had to put his trust into Kayleigh’s doctors and her strength and strong will.  We knew that this Kids Ride would be a fantastic outlet for him. He got right to fundraising and raised over $450 in Kayleigh’s honor. He also rode 15 miles… the longest he has ever cycled! The fundraising and miles were quickly shadowed by the glowing pride that he had on his face. He had finally felt like he did something for Kayleigh.  Pat and I looked at each other and knew that we had to bring this to Westborough. 

Shortly after the kids  PMC, we experienced our first of many PMC weekends. We arrived pretty early and made our way to the huge Pedal Partner tent. On our way, we saw a banner hanging that read “Team Legs Krankin for Kayleigh”.   It brought tears to my eyes thinking about this incredible team, raising funds to cure cancer’s like Kayleigh’s and MY daughter was the lucky child that inspired them.  Just incredible!  Even more incredible was when a team of blue and yellow rolled into the pedal partner stop, looking for one person… Kayleigh. I wish I captured her face when she saw HER team riding in. There are no words to describe it.  For the first time in almost a year, Kayleigh did not feel sick. She felt strong and healthy.

I reached back into Kayleigh’s carepages and stole parts of the update that I posted about PMC weekend because it really captures how we felt that day. 

This past weekend we were a part of the most incredible experience… The Pan Mass Challenge. We were among a sea of cyclists all riding for cancer research. I can’t even explain how exciting, emotional, inspiring, uplifting, incredible (I have many more adjectives that I could use) to watch Kayleigh’s team ride into Lakeville! They had been on the road since 6 AM and rode in a little after 12. Despite the heat and their exhaustion, they were the most enthusiastic group of people. We are so honored to have them ride for Kayleigh.

That says it all. I felt so inspired by the entire experience that I vowed to get on a bike (which I hadn’t been on in at least 15 years)  and do this next year if Kayleigh was healthy.

January of 2009 began a new chapter of our life. We pushed through what we call, Kayleigh’s Crapiversary… her diagnosis anniversary, I registered for my first PMC AND we began planning for Westborough’s 1st Kids PMC ride in honor of Kayleigh .

Our first kids ride was a huge success. Kayleigh and Michael felt so supported by our community. They loved riding their bikes with their friends and together, as a community, raising over $15,000 for pediatric cancer research.   Though the planning of the ride is incredibly time consuming, we forget about that each year when we see our friends, family and community riding together for the same cause. Everyone seems to be touched by cancer in some way and the Kids PMC gives kids that sense that they are truly helping such an incredible cause.

We are about to kick-off our fourth annual Kids ride and this year, the tables have turned. Kayleigh’s soccer teammate was recently diagnosed with a rare tumor and just endured a huge operation. Everyone wanted to pull together and help but didn’t know how.  However, we knew exactly how we could help… the Kids PMC. We created Team Nicole, captained by her brother. Once again, our community rallied and Team Nicole is growing bigger by the day.  Though the Westborough Kids PMC will always be in honor of Kayleigh’s battle, it is time to give the support that Michael and Kayleigh felt to Nicole and her hero of a brother, Zach.  Kayleigh is ecstatic to be able to help her teammate and sport her TEAM NICOLE shirt proudly on June 3. 

Throughout the craziness of planning the Kids PMC, I train and fundraise for my own ride. Since day 1, the PMC has been like therapy for me. It gives me hope that one day, every family that has to enter the Jimmy Fund will be able to walk out with a happy ending like we had. It has given me the opportunity to give back. Kayleigh’s second chance at life is a gift and I will never forget that.

Our family had an unbelievable opportunity to tour a lab at Dana Farber that researched Hepatoblastoma and also received funding from what the PMC generates.  This fueled my fundraising fire as I was really able to see where the generous donations were going and it truly made me feel that each mile that I rode was really bringing us close to a cure.

My first PMC experience as rider is something that I really can’t explain.  The thousands of other cyclists, the volunteers, the entire experience is beyond words. Day 1 was amazing… especially as I was approaching the Pedal Partner water stop where I knew Kayleigh, Michael and Pat would be. From a distance I could hear the cheering and cowbells. As I approached the entrance and saw Kayleigh jumping up and down and cheering her little head off I knew that I made the best decision to be a part of the PMC. It was just a year ago that we were the crowd cheering for Team Legs. To be on the other side… the healthy side… left me breathless and crying. Seeing her there confirmed that she had come full circle. 

As a rider in the PMC, the experience is like an addiction and I am hooked. I can’t imagine going through the month of August without crossing that finish line.

Had it not been for that fateful day in the Jimmy Fund when Kayleigh said “I’d like to do that”, our life would not be filled with the wonderful opportunities that the PMC has given our family and so many other families out there.  The PMC is known for the mileage and the incredible funds that the dedicated cyclists raise.  What isn’t mentioned enough is the support & inspiration that the PMC gives to families like mine. We can’t thank you enough!!!

Now through the eyes of my Living Proof…”

Kayleigh’s Speech:

“The PMC & Team Legs helped me a lot when I had cancer. It made me feel that I would be fine and that I would live. I was scared but I knew I would make it and I was right!

My favorite memory of being a Pedal Partner was when Team Legs rode to my house on a really hot day. I sprayed everyone with a hose! Also, when I saw my team riding into the Pedal Partner stop was so exciting.

Now, I love being a part of the Kids PMC. It is so much fun to ride my bike with my friends while raising money for cancer research.  This year, I am riding for my teammate and friend, Nicole. I want her to be living proof like me!”

Thank you to all our riders and the Jimmy Fund Clinic patients for participating in the 2012 PMC Pedal Partner Program! Check out the full photo gallery here.

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PMC Heavy Hitters Tour New Yawkey Center for Cancer Care

Every year, like an amazing family reunion, PMC Heavy Hitters get back together for the first time since the check presentation event, six months prior. The Heavy Hitter evening is not only a celebration of the incredible efforts of the PMC’s most successful fundraisers, but as a kickoff to the start of the new PMC season.

Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz., Jr., MD and WBZ-TV news anchor Lisa Hughes

Last Saturday night, more than 500 PMC Heavy Hitters gathered at the new Yawkey Center for Cancer Care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. There we toured the new facility that opened in the spring of 2011. PMC cyclists raised 15 percent, or $184 million, of the $1.2 billion capital campaign that was held between 2007 and 2011 for the building, staffing, and operations of the new center. In addition to great food and drinks, PMCers indulged in the pride of seeing the result of their efforts.

DFCI trustee, 16-year PMC rider, and ovarian cancer survivor Debbie First received a standing ovation after sharing her story of what it was like to be treated for cancer in the late 70s, “when cancer was a death sentence and no one knew what an oncologist was.”

Debbie First

DFCI trustee, 16-year PMC rider, and ovarian cancer survivor Debbie First, sharing her experience with cancer in the late 70s.

Her physician at the time, Dr. David Livingston, and today, the Deputy Director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, also spoke at the event. He said treating ovarian cancer in the late 70s was akin to being alone in the dark, in a foreign land without speaking the language, without a guide, and without a road map.

Yet, miraculously, Debbie First survived and last Saturday night, was joined on stage by her husband, Bob First, a 22-year PMC rider and DFCI Trustee, their children, and grandchildren who presented Debbie with a new Trek bike for Mother’s Day.

Debbi First and family

Debbie First’s husband, Bob First, a 22-year PMC rider, their son, and grandchildren presented Debbie with a new Trek bike for Mother’s Day.

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PMC Registration open to all alumni

More than 900 people have already registered to ride in the 2012 Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Now it is your turn.

Registration is now open for all PMC alumni. Visit PMC.org to register to ride one of 11 routes in the 33rd annual PMC, set for Aug. 4 and 5. Join us as the PMC rides toward a record fundraising goal of $36 million for cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Register now to secure your chosen route and your spot on the ferries out of Provincetown. Click here for all of the PMC logistics info. It’s going to be another GREAT PMC year.

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