2010-08-06 / Front Page

Riding for life

Story by Amanda Roberge
As local cyclists gear up once again for the 31st

Tommy Joffrion, age 4, will be cheering on Team Dragonfly this weekend at the 31st Annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Tommy Joffrion, age 4, will be cheering on Team Dragonfly this weekend at the 31st Annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) this weekend – Saturday, Aug. 7 and Sunday, Aug. 8 - one Leominster resident will be sitting on the sidelines.

Four year old Tommy Joffrion – who will be escorted by his parents and siblings, of course – will be cheering on Team Dragonfly, the dozen riders from Acton who will ride this year in celebration of his life.

Tommy was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in January 2010 and is being treated at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The members of Team Dragonfly are riding, for the first time, with Tommy as their “Pedal Partner” – a program initiated by PMC to connect people with teams to foster a sense of connection and inspiration. Tommy will also be inspiring walkers at the Jimmy Fund Walk in September as part of the Walk Hero Program.

In the past, Team Dragonfly has ridden in memory of their dear friend Jen Haan, a wife and mother of four who lost her battle with sarcoma in 2007.

The community, according to Team Dragonfly member Bruce Rychlik, felt Jen’s loss so deeply that he and a small army of her friends were inspired to create a team in her honor. But now with three PMC rides under his belt (some of the other members have been involved regularly with the ride since its inception in 1980), Rychlik said the team was ready to participate in the Pedal partner program and find a new source of energy for their mission.

“It’s a nice balance to ride for someone living,” explained Rychlik. “{Tommy} is sort of like our living Jen.”

The Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual bike-a-thon, is a pioneer of the athletic fundraising industry and today raises more money for charity than any other single event in the country. The organization was founded in 1980 and has since raised $270 million for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.

The PMC is a model of fundraising efficiency. In 2009, for the third consecutive year, the PMC donated 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar directly to the cause. The PMC generates more than half of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and it is Dana- Farber’s single largest contributor.

Tommy and his parents, Maria and John, along with his three siblings, have had opportunities to get together with Team Dragonfly before the event – meetings that helped both parties feel more connected to each other and to the cause.

“We are so lucky to have been matched up with such a loving group of people who are so enthusiastic and committed to helping this cause,” said Maria. “They have been very nice to my family and I’m sure we’ll stay in contact for many years to come.”

Team Dragonfly members have been smitten, too, with Tommy’s trademark personality.

“We couldn’t have been aligned with a nicer family,” said Rychlik. “And you can’t help but be taken by his charm – it’s what four year olds are all about!”

Leominster residents riding in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge are Bob Antonioni, Andrea Comeau, Bob Keating, Patrick Malone, Gabor Romhanyi, David and Lynne Singleton and Kenneth Stone.

For more information on the PMC ride, to search for riders or teams, or to make a donation, please visit www.pmc.org.

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