BOSTON (CBS) — Thousands of cyclists are now training for the Pan-Mass Challenge, hoping to raise $40 million for cancer research and treatment.

It’s a new adventure for a father and son in Marshfield. Connor Maher is training for his first Pan-Mass Challenge with two powerful inspirations: his mom, who died of a rare cancer when he was 12, and his dad, a cancer survivor.

“Everyone’s been touched by it and we’ve got to fix it somehow, someway,” Maher said. “If I can make a small difference, I will do whatever I can.”

Mike Maher is happy to be coaching the newest member of Team JenStrong.

It’s a way for Mike and Connor to connect with Jennifer, who started riding in the PMC to help kids with cancer. The year she got sick, she asked Mike to ride in her place. Mike figured he would do it once and be done, but that first ride hooked him and this year will be his 11th PMC.

“All the water stops. All the people who help out. All the volunteers are as special as the riders. Everything to do with it is amazing,” he says. “In those moments when you get in the zone, you’re thinking about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. And the memories flow right in front of you. Watching the pavement go by and watching your life.”

Connor and his two siblings watched cancer claim their mother even as she fought for her life. She died in March of 2007. Two months later, Mike had surgery for melanoma, but was so afraid of scaring the kids, he kept it a secret until recently.

“We were with it with my mom, the whole time. But he went through it on his own. I have to imagine that was pretty tough on him,” Connor said.

By opening up now, Mike’s hoping to encourage more people to ride the PMC while making new memories on the road with Connor.

Connor is the first of the Maher kids to ride the PMC but he’ll probably have company before long. His brother and sister hope to ride someday, too. Dad, Mike sets a powerful example – he’s raised more than $109,000 for Dana-Farber.

The PMC is the weekend of August 2 and 3, and WBZ-TV is the proud media partner of the event. For more information go to the PMC website.


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