Participants ride bicycles 192 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown to raise money for cancer treatment and research.
For Jay and Gail Kenerson, riding a bicycle more than 190 miles is not a burden when they think of the people they are helping.
Each year, the East Bridgewater couple participates in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the annual Jimmy Fund event where bike riders raise money for cancer treatment and research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
"Our biggest motivation to participate in this event is the fact that every year, someone we know is diagnosed with some type of cancer," said Jay Kenerson, 47.
The ride - which has two routes with both ending in Provincetown - began in 1980, when founder Billy Starr and 35 others rode across the state, raising $10,200 for cancer research.
Last year, 4,270 riders took part and raised $26 million for the Jimmy Fund. This year, about 5,000 riders are trying to meet their goal of $27 million, which will bring the overall 28-year Jimmy Fund contribution to more than $200 million for the Pan-Mass Challenge.
Gail Kenerson, who trains for about two hours a day after work, has raised $4,100 of her goal of $5,000. It is her ninth year riding in the annual fundraiser.
Her husband is volunteering at registration desks in Sturbridge after riding for seven years. They got started on recommendations from some of their friends.
"It seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. Little did we know we would be hooked," Jay said.
Mansfield resident Bruce Hamilton, a rider with the A-Team, was at a team cookout Saturday in Easton to bring sponsors, volunteers and team riders together before the event.
The team, whose riders come from Easton, Leominster, Mansfield and Dighton, has raised almost $25,000.
"My goal all along is to try and grow this team and inspire people. That is what Pan-Mass is about. Nothing in this world is going to change if we sit on the sidelines. It takes people getting involved to make a difference," Hamilton said.
Brockton resident Lindsay Homer started volunteering for the Pan-Mass Challenge nine years ago.
Her late grandfather, Thomas Phillips, was one of the oldest riders in the event's history, taking part in 16 rides into his 80s.
"The PMC is not only a family tradition, but it's also important to me because it is such a great cause. This event is something I look forward to every year," said Homer, 26.
Homer helps out at the water stop in Lakeville with other members of her family. They always have a specific theme to keep things interesting for riders and themselves during the day.
"Last year we did a TV Land theme, and this year will be Christmas island. We may even have a surprise visit from Santa Claus," Homer said.
Taunton resident Christine Moore volunteers at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, grilling food for the many riders who sleep there in tents Saturday night before continuing to the finish line in Provincetown.
"I love to prepare the food and see the riders enjoy a burger, hot dog, chicken. The grill is hot, greasy, flames firing, legs tiring, but the spirits all around are grateful, so it's easy for the hours to pass," Moore, 41, said.
Chuck Mollor of Bridgewater has raised about $4,000 of his $7,000 goal in his fifth year in the PMC. This year, Mollor, 44, is participating in the "Pedal Partner" program, which pairs biker teams with a child who is receiving treatment at the Dana Farber Institute.
Mollor and his team, the Grace Pedalers, are pedal partners with a 4-year-old girl from New Hampshire who is being treated for medulloblastoma, a tumor found in the brain.
For Bridgewater's Mollor, the most challenging part of the ride is the last few miles through rolling hills near Provincetown, but volunteers and supporters cheer the cyclists along.
"When you are out there biking, those people out there are cheering you on every mile. Some streets you get goose bumps because you'll see signs saying 'Thanks for saving my 5-year-old son' or 'Ride for my parents that died from cancer.' It's wild to see," Mollor said.
The Pan-Mass Challenge takes place Saturday and Sunday. Cyclists from 36 states and six countries are participating on eight different routes, which range from 47 to 192 miles.
The ride starts in Sturbridge at 6 a.m. Saturday and ends in Provincetown Sunday afternoon.
The event is the biggest contributor to the $1 billion raised annually through athletic fundraising.
More than 2,600 volunteers give their time to help the event run smoothly, allowing for 99 percent of riders' funds to go toward cancer research and treatment. For more information, visit www.pmc.org.
Matthew Leonido of The Enterprise (Brockton, Mass.) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.