Going the Distance Next item Learning Through Minecraft

Going the Distance

Looking Back at the 2017 PMC Ride and Fundraising Workshops

As more than 6,000 cyclists from 48 different states converged on three locations in Massachusetts for the 2017 Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), Taylor Tutwiler, who works to organize kids’ technology camps and events at Empow Studios, was in the midst of the cycling action. Like others who gathered in Sturbridge, Wellesley and Bourne to ride 12 different routes, Taylor took part to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund®, which receives 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar. Taylor chose to tackle the 2-day 168-mile route that started in Wellesley and ended in Provincetown.

Taylor and her bike
Taylor gears up at the starting line at Babson College in Wellesley

“I was extremely nervous for the actual ride seeing as I had not ridden a bike longer than a few miles here and there growing up or commuting in DC,” says Taylor who admits being 23-years-old and having some training helped. Overall, she credits peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along the course for keeping her energized for two days. “The PB&Js on the ride were a huge factor in me making it through the day,” she laughed while admitting she had hoped to be more prepared.

“We had all of these long rides planned from May to July, but I honestly never rode more than 32 miles a couple times before the event,” she added. “I run and strength train and I think that carried me through relatively well, but I came out of the experience with a sore backside and a new appreciation for people who do this every year.”

Despite the physical challenges, Taylor admits it was a bittersweet moment as she neared the end. “The hardest part of the weekend was that last 12 miles of incline going into Provincetown with the wind whipping straight into me where I thought, ‘Yes! It’s almost over,’ but I also thought ‘Oh no, it’s almost over.’”

Taylor & Loie at the finish line
Taylor and Loie as they near the finish line at the Provincetown Inn on day 2.

Riding for a Cure

Those who ride the PMC each year, come to know it as both a physical and emotional journey. Many riders talk about why they ride; often it is in remembrance of someone who lost their battle with cancer.

“My reason for riding is very personal,” says Taylor. “Many people in my life have been affected by cancer. Both grandmas died of cancer in their 60’s. Some of my best friends in high school and college had parents going through chemo while we were in school.”

For four years in high school, Taylor served as a team captain for ‘Relay for Life’ to honor her loved ones. Then, as an adult, it was a cancer survivor who inspired her to join the PMC ride. “My boyfriend’s mother, Loie Williams, battled pancreatic cancer when he was in middle school,” says Taylor. “She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. With the help of Dana-Farber, she has been all clear since 2004. She has ridden in the PMC every year since 2006 and has raised almost $200,000. Now that I recently moved to Massachusetts, I can finally ride it with her and give back to the place that helped her beat it.”

It was Williams who helped create the duo’s training plan for the ride, which is fueled by a strong desire to make a difference. “The other cyclists I met while I rode were some of the most influential and courageous people I had ever spoken with,” says Taylor. “I heard story upon story of struggle, survival, heartbreak, and success that all ended with, ‘So now I’m giving back to Dana-Farber’ in honor, in memory, or in thanks. The more I spoke with people, the faster I seemed to ride sometimes. My pain on this ride was nothing compared to the struggles they have faced in their lives.”

Adding STEAM to the PMC

In addition to the ride, Taylor also teamed up with Empow Studios to offer PMC charity workshops in the months leading up to the ride. “I wanted to raise money to keep researchers going, but also to provide STEM programs to raise the next generation of innovative thinkers to finally end cancer for good,” she notes. The workshops covered robotics, coding, and Minecraft with 100% of sales going directly to the PMC.

robotics

“Our PMC Workshops had so much better attendance than I ever expected,” says Taylor. “I know families are busy during the weekend, but the amount of people who showed up to these, whether it was to support the cause, or to play with some awesome technology, was just amazing. I had several parents email me about donating in other ways because they couldn’t make it that weekend and they just wanted to show support. We raised $2,340 through four workshops. We also had a birthday party raffle that appeared before check-out every time a family went to register for a program. This raffle raised $852!”

Taylor credits Empow Studios and its staff for assisting with this effort. “They were a huge part of my success with fundraising,” she notes. “I just want to thank everyone for being so supportive and for helping me reach my goals. I don’t have my final fundraising number yet, but I’m hoping to hit $5,000.”

Leonid & Taylor
Founder Leonid Tunik with Taylor after the ride in their matching cycling shirts

“I’m really happy that we were able to contribute to this important cause and help Taylor achieve her goal,” adds Empow Studios Founder Leonid Tunik. “I also want to thank all of those who came to Empow Studios to contribute to this campaign.”

Another Lexington, MA business, Pinot’s Palette, helped by hosting paint & sip parties with 50% of proceeds going towards the PMC. “I wanted to partner with another local business to give parents something to do while their kids took our classes” notes Taylor. “Reshma and all of the artists at Pinot’s have been so amazing these past few months! They’ve been able to donate over $300 more to my fundraising total.”

PMC riders

Overall, Taylor says she is looking forward to next year’s PMC ride and is thrilled to be involved with an effort that dedicates 100% of rider-raised donations to support the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s tireless commitment to finding a cure. “The Dana-Farber Institute does so much good for families and patients and I just want to contribute to the hope and miracles they have provided,” she says. “Cancer has affected each and every person’s life in some way, but we are fighting to fix it.”

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Would you like to donate to Taylor’s PMC fundraising effort?
Donations can be made on Taylor’s PMC
page through October 1st!
Photos of the 2017 Pan-Mass Challenge can be found on the site’s
gallery page.

Kristin spent more than a dozen years producing television news and documentaries and now writes for various Boston area publications on topics ranging from medicine and science to general news and education. She is also the mother of two young girls who are extremely active in STEAM events.

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