One late night in January, 2007, I made an impulsive decision that re-directed my life in a way I never expected. One of my customers was fighting cancer. While our original email discussions primarily focused on cupcakes instead of cancer, this woman, a young mother of four, was an open book and readily shared what she was experiencing. Her situation consumed me. I could brighten her day by making funny-faced cupcakes, but this action felt so fleeting & temporary. I needed to do something more to try to help. And so, on that night in January, I signed up to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge.
I knew about the PMC because my husband, Eddie, had done the ride for three years. I bought a bike and trained with Eddie, and tried to be as prepared as possible for the 192 mile ride.
I will never forget my first PMC experience. The cheering supporters, the amazing volunteers, the carnival-like water stops, the plethora of Gatorade. And…the children. The children fighting cancer. The children supporting parents. The children with knowledge of something as horrible as cancer at such a young age. Physically, I was ready. Emotionally, I was not.
That year, I became a ‘life-timer’, meaning that I made a pledge to myself that if I could walk, I was going to do the PMC. So far, I’ve held true on this promise & this summer will be my 8th year doing the ride. There’s a very high probability that this summer could perhaps be the best ride yet, because I will be joined by Eddie (who took a couple of years off), oldest son, Jacob (year 2) and middle son, Sam (newbie). While I know the boys will dust me on wheels, I cannot wait to experience the ride surrounded by almost my whole family on wheels.
I think most parents of teenagers will agree that there is very little that you can ‘force’ your kids to do. You can’t make them want to make their bed. You can’t make them care more about something they really don’t care about. All you can do is provide them with guidance (that they will most likely ignore), opportunities (which they may or may not partake in), and daily examples of our own values as seen by the words we say, the actions we take, the choices we make. When Jacob signed up to ride in the PMC last summer, I was stunned. I didn’t see this choice coming, and while I was completely thrilled, I really was surprised by his decision. I was a bit less surprised when Sam decided to join us this summer because I saw firsthand the influence teenagers have on each other. What it made me realize is that with just a little help, teenagers can rise up and do incredible, meaningful things. All they need are the tools, the opportunity, and the support of the people around them. What they need are bikes.
I came up with the idea of Roll it Forward while I was trying to figure out how to connect teenagers with road bikes. There is no question that bikes are expensive. So is all of the required gear – helmets, shoes, gloves, shades, clothing. Adult riders, for the most part, are gear junkies. I have yet to meet a rider who doesn’t love to check out new gear or talk about their bike(s). My mission is to create a program where older riders connect with teenagers and give them their used equipment. Yes, GIVE them their used equipment. I met with the team at PMC Headquarters about a month ago to discuss this, and everyone agreed its an idea worth pursuing. But, just like fighting cancer, it’s not something we can do without help.
I am asking that today, YOU make a difference by sharing this post with everyone you know. Help me find riders who have bikes in their garage or basement that they no longer use & who might be willing to give these bikes to teen riders. Send this story to every bike shop in the hopes that the owners of the bike shops may want to participate. Ask everyone you know who loves to ride if there is something that they can donate to help outfit a budding PMC life-timer. The impact we can make is potentially huge on so many levels…raising awareness of cancer, raising money for cancer research & treatment, and changing the trajectory of the lives of teenagers. Who is with me? Contact me at email@example.com to find out more about how you can join me on this mission.