BOSTON - As the sun was beating down outside TD Garden on Friday afternoon, a group gathered in the parking lot, with a young boy - three-year-old Cian Byrne - running around.
He had already worn himself out in the sun by the time Executive Director of the Boston Bruins Foundation Bob Sweeney had arrived.
“Can’t believe he’s not running around,” joked Sweeney, as he looked around the lot for the young boy.
But Cian has energy, and plenty of it - so much of it that you might never believe he battled cancer.
“He’s full of energy, I’ll tell you that,” Sweeney smiled. “He’s doing so well right now at a young age to have cancer, to have the tumor that he had, to have that removed and see where he is now, it’s just great.”
The group was coming together for the Pan-Mass Challenge this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1-2, an annual 192-mile bike ride from Sturbridge, Mass. down the Cape to Provincetown to raise funds for cancer care and research at Dana Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.
Thirty-one riders will be making the journey with the Bruins Foundation, sporting jerseys with the Spoked-B on the front. In 2015, the team will be riding for their Pedal Partner, young Cian.
“The only thing we had concerned about was getting a shirt small enough to fit him; a little bike shirt,” smiled Sweeney. “Great family. They’re full of energy and we’re happy to have him.”
The Foundation is celebrating its 10th Anniversary of being involved in the annual bike-a-thon.
Through the 10 years, the Boston Bruins Foundation bike team has raised nearly $115,000 for the Pan-Mass Challenge. Fundraising for the 2015 PMC will continue through Oct. 1.
“I was involved the first year and it was great. It’s a great experience,” said Sweeney. “I did it for six years. So many people that you meet that either had cancer or had someone with cancer that they know very well and unfortunately some people that have lost people with cancer. Just the people you see on the route both days, they’re so supportive of your efforts that you need to put in to do this.”
Overall, the Pan-Mass Challenge has raised more than $455 million for cancer care and research through its 35 years. The event raises more funds than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country.
"This year the PMC is trying to raise a total of a half a billion dollars if they raise 45 million this year, which is just incredible over the years to see where it started with a small group to see thousands and thousands of volunteers," said Sweeney. "Just a huge initiative that takes so many volunteers and people to pull off and we’re happy to have a team."
The members of the team ride for many reasons, and to honor many people.
One first-timer, Dave McNamara, got involved through his sister Debbie who has battled cancer and first got Sweeney and Bruins alumni on board with the Pan-Mass Challenge.
“My sister, she’s been riding it for years,” said McNamara. “She hasn’t done it in the past few years, time’s catching up with her, but she’s an inspiration to a lot of people and she’s got a lot of people riding and now I’m the latest one.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Lauren Langbert, who is riding in her eighth PMC. “Very emotional. My father passed away from cancer this year, so it’s going to be an emotional one for me, I’m riding for him.”
“The people along the side of the road are amazing,” Langbert added. “They’re there to cheer you on, and some of them carrying signs and waving, and they set up their neighborhoods, and it’s just a great experience.”
There are longtime riders, like Langbert, and first-timers like McNamara and Renee Riva, who works in the Bruins Marketing Department.
“I’m looking forward to it so much,” said Riva. “I’ve been training throughout the spring in memory of my two grandmothers that passed away earlier this year. I’m also riding for a bunch of different people. I’ve actually created bracelets with each of their names so I can remember them throughout the ride.”
“I’ll be proud to wear that Spoked-B for sure and to hear everyone cheering ‘Let’s go Bruins.’ It’s always great to be part of the team and organization for something like this.”
Sweeney had one reminder for the group before their ride, which kicks off early on Saturday morning.
"When you get tired around that 80-90 mile mark, think of him," said Sweeney, looking towards a smiling Cian.
To learn more about the Boston Bruins Foundation’s Pan-Mass Challenge team and show your support, visit the main fundraising page and check out BostonBruins.com/foundation.
Follow the the riders as they make 192-mile journey for #PMC2015 with photos posted to Twitter @NHLBruins and Instagram throughout the weekend.