By Natasha Clark
Assistant Managing Editor
Preparations are underway for the 7th Annual Heidi's Chain of Hope Bike Ride. The annual ride has raised thousands of dollars for the Cancer House of Hope $33,000 in just the last two years. Ride committee members Margaret Toomey, Melanie Martin, Melanie Mannheim, Gail Brannan and Beth Thurber are encouraging members of the community to help make this year's ride even more successful.
Seven years ago the ride was started as a means to raise funds for the House that has provided invaluable services to those and their loved ones living with and/or dealing with cancer. In addition to workshops, support groups and lectures, the House also offers spirituality, bereavement and nutritional option exploration. What makes the Cancer House of Hope unique is that all services are offered free of charge. Started in Westfield on Court Street, the House has since opened a second location on Plumtree Road in Springfield.
The late Heidi Hannon, for whom the ride was later renamed, was one of the founding members of the fundraiser. She succumbed to breast cancer soon after the second ride took place. Ride committee member Thurber said they wanted to come up with a charity event for the House and the ride was an easy decision.
"We thought we could come up with a fundraiser for the House and a bunch of us like to bike, so we said why don't we organize one," she recalled.
Thurber said this year's ride takes place on May 18 and consists of three biking routes for a rider to choose from 10, 25 or 50 miles. It all starts and ends at the Cancer House of Hope on 86 Court Street in Westfield.
"There's a registration fee and pledge amount [for riders]," Thurber continued. "For ages 16 and under, there is a $10 registration fee and a minimum of $100 must be raised. For 17 and older the registration is $25, [and the rider] has to raise a minimum of $200." The first 75 riders will also receive a ride T-shirt.
"Along the rides we have rest stops that are fully supported with mechanical support, food and refreshments," Thurber said, adding that there will also be a sag wagon available for riders needing assistance.
She said volunteers are always needed in preparation of the event and on the day of, and there are also plenty of opportunities for businesses to get involved via donations and sponsorships. Besides riders and donors, Thurber said the help of local business owners is priceless.
Marie and Leo Kiernan, owners of Leo's Gallery Deli in Westfield, have been helping out with the ride since its inception. Marie said she got involved with the fundraiser because of Hannon, who often frequented the deli.
"She was very warm and pleasant and outgoing and I just loved her in general. Anyone that met her liked her," Marie said.
The couple sell paper bicycle wheels at the deli every year $1 for red ones and $5 for blue as a way to contribute to the ride. The wheels will be on sale until the day of the event.
"The more people you know that have breast cancer, it's unbelievable. You're hearing of more and more people," Marie said, adding that one of her family members has also dealt with the illness. "It means a lot to us. We try to help in any way we can."
The ride will culminate with a celebration including a picnic, music and chair massages.
"We tell people to register early," Thurber added. "If you register the day of, there is a $30 fee."
For more information on call 821-6988 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration forms are available at www.thereminder.com/features/heidischainofhope.