By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Stationary bicyclists once again exceeded their goal with the 12th annual Pedal to End Cancer (formerly known as Spin for Hope), a three-hour event held March 6 at Wayside Athletic Club. With additional donations expected, 32 cyclists raised over $26,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS). Throughout 12 years, the club, formerly known as Wayside Racquet & Swim Club, has collected over $212,000 through its fundraisers.
Nia Benoit, the spin program director, has participated in the fundraiser annually and coordinated it for her eighth year. She was pleased to relinquish her instructor bike for a while to this year’s special guest: cancer survivor Samantha Dalbec, age 7.
Samantha was diagnosed at two months with retinoblastoma. According to the ACS website, “Retinoblastoma is a cancer that starts in the retina, the very back part of the eye. It is the most common type of eye cancer in children.”
“This year was made extra special by having Samantha share her story with us,” Benoit said. “Samantha got up on the instructor bike while I read the story she wrote about her cancer. She melted all of our hearts with her sweet smile. She is such a brave little girl and I’m so thankful for her participation in the event this year.”
As a registered participant, 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. Additionally, she and others remembered Steve Noonan, who was a Wayside member and passed away of lung cancer in November 2014. A team of six cyclists rode last year in memory of Noonan, which was organized by Steve Cannon, the fitness center manager.
When this cycling fundraiser began statewide in 2005, Wayside was one of only six health clubs that participated. Of this year’s 46 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 five.
Of all individual participants throughout New England, Denise Howard was the second highest fundraiser with $5,445. Benoit’s husband, Dan, was the overall fifth highest fundraiser with $2,580. He also shares responsibilities coordinating the event.
“A big piece of Dan’s time is dedicated to making the 10-minute iMovie that we play at the halfway point in the ride,” she explained. “It’s set to uplifting music and includes inspirational quotes, pictures and videos of past events, pictures of loved ones fighting cancer and others who have passed, and ends with sharing the fundraising results.”
Benoit and Howard were two of five spin instructors who volunteered to lead 30-minute segments during the three-hour ride. The other instructors were Meredith Rubin, Jamie Orkin-Levin and Stephanie Kushner.
Each year, a banner is hung next to the stationary bikes and has become known as the Wall of Hope. Among this year’s messages posted on the wall were: “Riding for others and recently myself,” “To those we have loved and lost too soon,” and “Keep fighting and stay strong!”
Benoit credits Wayside’s successful fundraisers to the consistent support of the Metrowest community. In addition to riders, a number of individuals and businesses donate raffle items for further fundraising.
“The positivity and enthusiasm in the room is always what strikes me each year,” Benoit said. “The group is incredibly passionate about being there and working hard to fight this disease that has touched so many of us.”
For more information, visit WaysideAthleticClub.com.