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Locals gear up for the 33rd Annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge

Date: 7/25/2012

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — Four local cyclists will participate in the upcoming Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) on Aug. 4 and 5 in an effort to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through The Jimmy Fund.

For Brett Gearing of Agawam, this is the first year riding in the bike-a-thon. Gearing will ride with Team Babson.

"I'm relatively new to riding," Gearing said. "I'm still learning the ropes and the road etiquette. I'm looking forward to seeing the survivors — the beneficiaries of the event."

A former runner and Boston Marathon participant, training hard is nothing new to Gearing.

"I try to ride a couple times a week," Gearing explained. "I travel a lot for work, so that's been my biggest obstacle. Unlike running, I can't just hop on a treadmill."

Gearing may be new to cycling, but he's no stranger to fundraising, having previously run for the Children's Cancer Foundation Inc.

"One hundred percent of the money raised is donated," Gearing said. "I want to raise some money for the cause. Hopefully I will get to my goal of $5,000."

Joining Gearing at the PMC are Michael Moses of Southwick, Leonard Bruso III of Feeding Hills and Kevin Learned of Southwick.

For Moses, this year is his fifth year riding in the PMC. While Moses rides in honor of many, his main motivation — Brielle, his 13-year-old niece.

"I'm a team member of Brielle's Brigade, founded by my brother Edward seven years ago," Moses said. "In three days we will ride nearly 300 miles. Yeah, we get tired, but to ride that distance is nothing — Brielle and her family get up every day to fight. They have no choice."

This time last year, Moses and his teammates received heartbreaking, yet motivating news just before the PMC.

"On the eve of last year's PMC," Moses explained, "We learned that Brielle's cancer had returned in the form of Osteosarcoma."

According to, Brielle remains positive after undergoing aggressive treatment, including two major surgeries. In honor of her fight, this year's ride is designated to funds for Osteosarcoma, a rare form of cancer which receives little funding for new treatment advances.

"It's an amazing event to be part of," Moses said. "The people along the route cheering you on keep you motivated."

Also participating in the PMC for his fifth year is Bruso.

"Being a family member of folks who've had cancer, I decided it's time to do something," Bruso said. "You can only do so much [to comfort someone battling cancer]."

Bruso draws a parallel between the mindset of long-distance cycling and battling cancer.

"I never think it's a given that I'm going to complete the PMC until I'm five miles from the finish," Bruso stated. "The 190 miles that I'm riding, anybody who wants to do that can, they just have to set their mind to believe they will. With cancer, you have to believe you can get better and live the good life."

The people at the PMC and its atmosphere motivate Bruso throughout his ride.

"The adrenaline, the good vibe from the PMC is incredible," Bruso stated. "There are so many people I've met — volunteers, riders, children — that are Living Proof [referring to the cancer survivors designated by T-shirts stating 'Living Proof']. It doesn't matter that I may not know the person next to me; we're all trying to do the same thing to help others. You can't imagine how many people [take part]. It warms your heart."

2012 marks the 33rd PMC. According to its website, the PMC was founded in 1977 by Executive Director Billy Starr. The first group ride took place in 1980 with a total of 36 riders.

Kevin Learned was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

For more information about the PMC visit For more information about the riders visit the profile page at; once there you can search by name or enter the following: BGO149 for Brett Gearing, LB0167 for Leonard Bruso III, KL0157 for Kevin Learned, and MM0375 for Michael Moses.