August 7, 2012

Harrington Employee Rides in 9th Pan Mass Challenge

STURBRIDGE, Mass., August 7, 2012 - For Tom Emerson, who works in the Engineering Department at Harrington HealthCare System, riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge is a way to honor the memory of his mother, Gwendolyn, who succumbed to cancer.

On the weekend of Aug. 4 and 5, Emerson, a Cumberland, R.I., resident, honored his mother by riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge for the 9th time.

"I feel this is a good cause," he said. "I know that the money I raise is going to research to find a cure for cancer."

Emerson rode in his first race, in 1992, with his co-worker Roger Lafleche, the Director of the Engineering Department at Harrington HealthCare System in Southbridge.

"Starting in 1992, Roger and I began riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge. I did it eight years straight. Roger did it for another two. Then I took 10 years off, and now I'm back, doing it again this year."

The Pan-Mass Challenge, which started in 1980, raises more money for charity than any other fund-raising event in the country. The money raised -- $338 million since its inception - goes to fight cancer in the U.S. Those participating solicit donors who pledge the money for their ride. All the money raised goes to fight cancer. The event is expected to raise $36 million this year.

The bike-a-thon has several routes. The starting points are either Sturbridge or Wellesley. Emerson started in Sturbridge. The first day of the ride this year was Saturday, Aug. 4. Riders who started at Sturbridge congregated the night before at the Host Hotel and Conference Center in Sturbridge. On the first day, Emerson rode from Sturbridge to Bourne on Cape Cod - a 110-mile ride. The second day, he rode from Bourne to Provincetown, at the very end of Cape Cod, an additional 82 miles, for a total of 192 miles - the longest Pan-Mass Challenge route.

The event attracts more than 5,000 participants, some of them celebrities - this year, both U.S. Senators from Massachusetts, John Kerry and Scott Brown, were expected to ride.

Emerson trains for the ride every year by getting on his bike roughly four or five times a week, often training with Lafleche.

"I've done 100 miles the last few weeks, most of it with Roger," Emerson said.

Emerson's advice for Pan-Mass Challenge riders: "Pay attention to the people around you so you don't get hit. There are a lot of people riding in this event. Other than that, make sure you keep hydrated."