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Norwood - Local Town Pages

Joe Mawn; Riding PMC for his Mother and Many Others

By Christopher Tremblay

The Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) was organized by Billy Starr in 1980, after losing his mother to Melanoma at the age of 49. The event is a Massachusetts-based bike-a-thon that raises more money than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. The ride takes place the first weekend of August with 100 percent of its donations going to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the world-wide leader in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research.

During the inaugural PMC, there were a total of 36 riders and 10 volunteers, and although many of the bike riders got lost that August weekend, they still managed to accomplish what they set out to do – raise funds ($10,200) for cancer research. Today, there are over 6,800 riders with 3,000 volunteers that have raised an astonishing $831 million for the Dana Farber Jimmy Fund. 

Joe Mawn was first introduced to the PMC in 2007 by his friend Jimmy Lee, who had begun participating in the event a few years earlier while the Norwood resident was involved in active duty with the Army. The two had previously done other cancer related support fundraisers because they had both lost their mothers to some sort of cancer. 

Upon signing up to join his friend in the two-day event, Mawn was a little hesitant and somewhat nervous.

“I was originally nervous about the physical and financial obligation,” Mawn said. “I did not consider myself a cyclist and didn’t know what I got myself into. We choose the 192-mile trip, and once I made the commitment I figured it was all or nothing. I had no regrets at doing the 2-day event my very first year.”

Although anxious, once he jumped onto the bike for the first leg of the trip, Mawn found that he was hooked.

“It’s amazing,” the Norwood rider said. “It seemed like there were 10,000 volunteers always there to give you water, food, first aide, or mechanical assistance on your bike. I may have been nervous but the entire PMC committee put you at ease right away, and as a first-year rider you have a tag on your jersey, so everyone knows, and they are giving you support the whole way.”

Another hardship, so he thought, was going to be the fundraising part of the event, but Mawn has found that was not the case.

“I have been pretty fortunate to have a great group of friends and co-workers who have given me incredible support each and every year helping me to reach my goal,” Mawn said. “Unfortunately, just about everyone knows someone who is affected by cancer in some way.”

Riding in what will be his twelfth PMC this year, Mawn has said he is 100-percent invested in the two-day event and will continue to jump aboard his bike to help in the research of cancer until he is dead or deployed.

“I see people out there on the road who are older than I am, so I think I can continue to fight for cancer,” Mawn said. “It’s all about the support for Dana Farber. After having time off because of the pandemic, it was good to get back on my bike in 2021.”

While his mother is and always will be his main reason that he takes part in the PMC, he also rides for the thousands of other cancer patients as well as his brother firefighters. Mawn is a Norwood firefighter.

“Last year, I also rode for firefighters, especially John Bellani, who passed away in 2021,” Mawn said. “This year, I will once again be riding for the firefighters, as not only will 68.9% of us be diagnosed with many different cancers, but research shows that the chemicals in our gear, which is supposed to keep us safe, is also cancer causing.”

Mawn and the other PMC riders are hoping that eventually there will be a cure for cancer, but until then, he will continue to get on his bike the first week of August and make the trek from Sturbridge all the way to Provincetown for the good of those inflicted with the disease.