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There is nothing like it...

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins – While he may be giving his vocal chords a rest this summer, Jack Edwards is still working hard in support of the Boston Bruins. The passionate play-by-play announcer for NESN will be riding as a member of the Bruins Foundation team next weekend in the Pan-Mass Challenge to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“It is the greatest single sports event, charity fundraiser in the world,” Edwards said of the Pan-Mass Challenge. “There is nothing like it.”

The 190-mile, two-day bike-a-thon is unique in that 100 percent of donated money goes directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund, allowing thousands of patients to receive treatment that would be otherwise unavailable.

“We’re talking about a third of a billion dollars that this ride has raised over the years, and that helps - that makes a difference,” Edwards said. “You ask Dr. [Edward J.] Benz at Dana-Farber and he’ll tell you flat-out that this is making a difference. It’s saving people’s lives.”

For Edwards, the discomfort felt during the strenuous ride is a small sacrifice compared to the impact the event has on all cancer patients and their families.

“When you get to be part of something like that, it really, really hits home, and it makes you want to ride long and hard,” he said. “Even the suffering is purposeful. I don’t know if it’s actually fun, but it’s certainly purposeful and you can feel a reason for what you’re doing.”

Adding to the significance of the event is the opportunity for Edwards to ride with other members of the Boston Bruins organization, a community he feels proud to be a part of.

“I think it is true of every single person who works with and for and is associated with the Boston Bruins hockey club that they strive every day to leave whatever it is they’re working on better than they found it that day,” Edwards said.

“I like to say that the core of Bruins fans are people who take showers after work and not before, because that’s really the heart and soul of the franchise – people who get their hands dirty, make their muscles sore, use their minds, and use their bodies for a purpose.”

Aside from his teammates and the B’s faithful, the person most on Edwards’ mind during the Pan-Mass Challenge will be Caroline Fries, a former guest announcer for a NESN Bruins game who passed away three years ago after battling a rare form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. Edwards said that his favorite part of the route is a hill in Wellfleet near where Fries used to live.

“When you climb this hill, you look to the south and you see the sun glistening on the water all the way to the horizon and it’s hard not to feel spiritual when you have a connection like we at NESN had with Caroline at a moment like that,” Edwards said.

The emotion that the riders experience from the physical challenge, the meaningful cause, and memories of individuals like Fries lends itself to developing lasting bonds among all the participants - something that Edwards embraces every year.

“You generate such a solid bond with people when you ride with them for five-six hours and it’s something that even if you only spend that one or two days with those people, you’ll remember them for the rest of your life.”

---Travis Basciotta

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