By Larry Sperber
Our country and the global community are so flooded with negativism that I often wonder about our tomorrows. The media generally reports on sad and tragic stories: fires, hurricanes, and global warming; armed conflict and mass shootings; crime and corruption; poverty, bigotry, and racism; on and on. Usually our government, particularly our federal government, neglects its responsibility to undertake remedial measures to prevent these problems.
I recently experienced a day in the Boston area that almost brought me to tears—tears of joy and hope and love and respect for my fellow man and woman.
A little background: In October 2018, some five weeks shy of my 88th birthday, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. As a lifelong resident and careerist in the Greater Boston community, I placed my care in the hands of the doctors and staff of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and their surgical colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I underwent surgery on Nov. 1.
Six weeks later, I mounted my bicycle for a short ride. I have been an avid cyclist for some 40 years, though shorter and slower rides as time passed. Over the next months, I spent many hours at the hospital undergoing tests, checkups, and consultations. I was overwhelmed by the vast number of patients with similar experiences.
For years I was aware of the Pan Mass Challenge, a bicycle event to raise money for Dana Farber. Now it became very personal. So I signed up to ride a 25-mile segment. I sent letters to 46 friends, family members, classmates, and former clients to request financial sponsorship of my ride. I am in awe of the results; 40 contributions raised almost $14,000.
On Friday, Aug. 2, I registered at the ride headquarters at Babson College in Wellesley. On Sunday, Aug. 4, I presented myself at the “starting gate” at Babson. Other venues had starting times as well. I learned that there were more than 4,000 riders. Some rode more than 100 miles. I was overwhelmed by the many hundreds, perhaps thousands of volunteers who helped to raise $60 million for treatment and research at Dana Farber. I was more overwhelmed by the thousands of cyclist participants who participated from near and far, young and old (I was the eldest). The spirit at the start and during the many hours of riding was truly remarkable. The support and encouragement I received en-route were heartwarming.
I was so moved emotionally by the show of community support for one another and for the very worthy institution Dana Farber. It was a remarkable odyssey for me. After so much negativism lately, the Pan Mass Challenge reinforced and renewed my respect and affection for my new “friends” who participated in the Challenge whether as volunteers, riders, or financial supporters and sponsors of the riders, some 350,000 strong. It was mankind and womankind at their best!
Larry Sperber has been a resident of Eastman since 1981. He is an avid golfer, routinely playing in Eastman Golf Links events.
Note: Find more information about the Pan Mass Challenge at www.pmc.org.