Wednesday marked the annual Boston Bruins Harbor Cruise to benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation Pan-Massachusetts Challenge Bike Team, which will set off on August 2. The team has already raised more than $80,000 for the bike-a-thon, which traverses 46 towns across Massachusetts. Since its inception in 1980, the event has raised $414 million for adult and pediatric cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.
While aboard the boat on Wednesday night, guests had the opportunity to mingle with Bruins alumni and Bruins Ice Girls, enjoy some live music courtesy of Digger Dawg and participate in a raffle. Among the prizes were plenty of signed items courtesy of the current Bruins roster, including jerseys, sticks and photos.
Bruins Foundation Executive Director Bob Sweeney, a longtime rider and supporter of the PMC and its mission, looks forward to the race every year — and also looks forward to the chance to sail around the Harbor, mingling with fans and fellow Bruins alumni.
“We’ve had a team for a while now, and it’s been a good addition and a good event for us, year in and year out,” Sweeney said. “We always get good support. This year, we have just under 30 riders, which is great. We always look forward to helping raise money for Dana Farber, and the PMC has done such a great job over the years. This year, they’re going to try to raise $40 million, and we’re going to try to do our part on behalf of the Bruins.”
And of course, it was an added bonus that the weather held up.
“We got a great night tonight,” Sweeney said. “It was a real hot day today, so it feels nice and breezy here. A nice relief.”
Among those in attendance on the Cruise were former Bruins Frank Simonetti (1984-88) and Al Iafrate (1993-94), who made the trip from Detroit for a hockey camp and was thrilled to have the opportunity to support the Bruins and the PMC — and to connect with some old friends.
“I loved being a Bruin,” Iafrate said. “It’s an Original Six team, obviously they won the Cup a couple of years ago, which is great for hockey, and New England, and for people who are Bruins fans and for all the current Bruins. It’s good to be back in Boston and reconnecting with the Brickleys, Bourques, Sweeneys, Shoebottoms, Middletons — all those guys that played in my era. So it’s good to see all the alumni guys and start to play in some Bruins alumni games. It’s fun."
Simonetti will be embarking on the ride for the eighth year and still finds it just as exhilarating as he did that very first year.
“Bobby Sweeney got me involved as a former player — he said, ‘You know, we’re trying to recruit as many former players as possible to get out and ride,' so I did it,” Simonetti said. “I trained for it, and now I love it — I’m hooked on it. I brought in a few of my friends to ride, and they’ve reached out to their friends, so it’s kind of this self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Aside from that, the cause is tremendous. Raising money for cancer research — you can’t get any better than that, if you can help raise money for a cause like that. Everybody knows somebody who has suffered from cancer.”
Simonetti said that the best part of the PMC is seeing the cheering kids along the route, many of whom are or have been Dana Farber patients and receive support from events like this one.
“As you come into one of the rest stops, they have the kids out with their signs, saying, ‘Hey, you helped me and I’m here because of you,’” he said. “It’s a very fulfilling, very fulfilling event for all of us.”
For the likes of Sweeney, Iafrate and Simonetti, one of the most rewarding parts of the Harbor Cruise is seeing the familiar faces that climb aboard season after season — and having the opportunity to mingle with the fans who have supported the Black & Gold for so many years.
“There are people here that are here every year,” Simonetti said. “I’ve been here for eight years, they’ve been here for eight years and you develop friendships. You talk to them off the boat, which is kind of cool, and they keep coming back. They bring their friends, and it’s the Bruins community.”
Having the opportunity to give back to the community is particularly meaningful to Simonetti, a native of Melrose, Mass., who grew up just 10 minutes from the legendary Boston Garden.
“I can’t get enough of reaching out and giving back to the community as often as I can,” he said. “I love Boston, love being here, love all that we can do for the Bruins Foundation.”
In fact, Simonetti said the annual Harbor Cruise sums up just about everything that is great about the sport he loves so much.
“Wholesome, good family fun — that’s hockey,” he said.
The fans aren’t the only ones who look forward to the Harbor Cruise every summer. Sweeney counts himself among those who eagerly anticipate the event each year.
“We all look forward to [the event],” he said. “It’s nice to let your hair down a little bit, and at the same time, raise some money for the Bruins Foundation and, in the end result, Dana Farber.”
For more information on how you can support the Bruins Foundation Pan-Mass Challenge Team, click here.