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Thousands Ride In Pan-Mass Challenge

By Alana Gomez, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Lisa Hughes rides in the 2011 Pan Mass Challenge.

WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes rides in the 2011 Pan Mass Challenge.

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STURBRIDGE, Mass. (CBS) — The Pan Mass Challenge rolled through the state today. More than five thousand bikers rode to raise awareness for cancer research.

At one of their pit stops, there was a special cheering crowd waiting. Child cancer patients with the Jimmy Fund who wanted to thank them.

8-year old Bennett Hartley was diagnosed with leukemia in January. He sat at a table signing his autograph on baseballs and giving them to supporters who were riding in his honor.

“It makes me feel a little stronger and it has definitely changed my life,” said Hartley.

WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez reports

Hartley’s mother Laura Gill is a cancer survivor and participating in the PMC for the first time for her son. She says the event has made the process easier to deal with.

“You just don’t’ feel alone. That’s the main thing,” said Gill.

Those who met Bennett used the touching moment to get through the tough courses.

“You think about people you know and people like Bennett and it does make you get up that hill,” said Debbie First, who’s riding her 16th PMC.

Riders choose one or two day courses between 25 and 190 miles. The routes pass through 46 different towns. The PMC is the most successful athletic fundraiser in the country. This year the goal is to raise $34 million.

Participants included Lance Armstrong, Senator John Kerry, and Senator Scott Brown.

WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes (pictured) rode, despite injuring her wrist late in training.

PMC veterans WBZ-TV’s David Wade and WBZ IT manager Greg Rasso both rode as well.

Organizers anticipated raising around $34 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund.

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