By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Stationary bicyclists were once again compelled by personal reasons to participate in the 11th annual Pedal to End Cancer (formerly known as Spin for Hope), a three-hour event held March 1 at Wayside Racquet & Swim Club. With additional donations and company matches expected, 32 cyclists exceeded their goal and raised over $20,000 for the American Cancer Society. In 11 years, the Wayside benefit collected over $197,800.
Nia Benoit, the spin program director, has participated in the fundraiser annually and coordinated it for her seventh year. As a registered participant, she rode in honor of people close to her including the late Steve Noonan, who was a Wayside member.
“Steve rode in the front row of my spin classes for 15 years and has participated in this event numerous times,” she said. “Last year, a week before the event, Steve called to let me know that he could not ride in it because he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Eight months later, my friend Steve passed away. I think about him every time I get on the instructor podium to teach a class.”
A team of six cyclists rode in memory of Noonan, which was organized by Steve Cannon, the fitness center manager. The two men met at Wayside over 10 years ago and ultimately participated together on Team Acara, a group of cyclists that rides the Cape Code Getaway to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“Everybody knew Steve,” Cannon said. “I remember him as a super-friendly guy, always had a smile for everyone and asked how you were doing. This is an event that he used to do, so I wanted his presence to be strong there this year.”
The team displayed a board on which all participants could write their memories of Noonan. Afterward, Cannon gave the messages to his wife, Carol. Other Noonan family members also attended.
In addition to remembering Noonan, Benoit rode in memory of her aunt Faith, who passed away of breast cancer at age 59, and in honor of her father, Jim, a cancer survivor.
“He beat bladder cancer twice through a really innovative technique,” she explained. “He didn’t have to do chemo or radiation; he did another treatment that worked for him. Knowing that a new treatment helped my father beat the disease makes me feel like there are opportunities out there to help others have the same success.”
When the fundraiser began statewide in 2005, Wayside was one of only six health clubs that participated. In its first nine years, Wayside was among the top five fundraisers when the event grew to be hosted at over 60 clubs throughout New England. Of this year’s 52 participating clubs, Wayside raised the second highest amount.
Riders could register either as an individual and cycle for the entire three hours, or form a team of two or more people and take turns cycling. This year at Wayside, 10 individuals cycled for the full three hours including Darren McLaughlin, the general manager. The other participants were in teams of two to six.
Of the more than 700 participants throughout New England, Denise Howard was the second highest fundraiser with over $4,300. Benoit’s husband, Dan, was the overall fifth highest fundraiser with over $3,300. He also shares responsibilities coordinating the event and created a slideshow with inspirational quotes depicting past riders including Noonan
Benoit is looking forward to Wayside’s 12th annual Pedal to End Cancer.
“New and exciting ideas are already in the works for next year,” she announced.