She’ll carry the spirit of 1,264 companions on her PMC ride

Jean Hammond hanging the Tibetan prayer flags carried in the 2010 Pan Mass Challenge - Courtesy photo
Jean Hammond hung the Tibetan prayer flags that she and Ralph Hammon carried in the 2010 Pan Mass Challenge in their Bedford garden- Courtesy photo

By Julie McCay Turner

On August 3 and 4, Jean Hammond will join 21 other Bedford residents and several thousand other cyclists riding to support the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund 34th annual Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), the nation’s first and most successful charity bike-a-thon.

She will also be accompanied by the names of 1,264 survivors, patients, caregivers and those who have lost their battles with cancer inscribed on Tibetan prayer flags that will be taped to her handlebars. Jean’s husband Ralph Hammond carried the first list with 45 names that were shared by friends and acquaintances. The list has grown as friends of friends — and strangers who have heard about the Hammonds’ PMC commitment — now share names to add to the flags and support the Hammonds’ fundraising efforts.

“… [W]e’re inviting you to join us in the Pan Mass Challenge by sending us names for our Tibetan prayer flags, which we imprint with your name and the names of your friends and loved ones who have dealt with the challenge of cancer, and also the people who care for them.

Ralph began carrying names and flags after his trips to Nepal. Tibetans and Nepalis believe that as the printed prayers and names fade over time, the prayers will be heard. We’ll hang the flags in our garden after the ride so that time and the positive power of nature will serve those we love. The concept, potential, and effectiveness of prayer and reflective thought are wonderful and powerful!

We hope you will send names whether you are able to contribute to the PMC or not. If you would also like to sponsor Jean, your contribution would be very welcome.

— From Jean’s 2013 letter to supporters

Ralph Hammond, with prayer flags attached to his handlebars. - Courtesy photo
Ralph Hammond, with prayer flags attached to his handlebars. – Courtesy photo

As a volunteer driver for Lifeline in 2003, Ralph ferried cancer patients who were flown into Hanscom from around the country for medical treatment in Boston hospitals.  He had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was inspired by the positive attitude of a young patient. “That little kid was battling the daylights out of cancer,” Ralph said. He noticed a PMC poster at Dana Farber on that trip, and rode for the first time in 2004. Jean joined him in 2007, and they’ve ridden together until this year.

Because of health concerns, his physician has advised Ralph Hammond to wait for next year to ride his tenth PMC.

We were both been planning to ride this year, but Ralph hasn’t been feeling too well. He’s been tired and dizzy, low on energy and, well, not the usual high-energy guy we all know. He’s spent much of the spring with his doctor and two cardiologists, trying to figure out what’s happening. At this point they’re working on how best to treat what they are calling cardiomyopathy. You might guess that this was not part of our 2013 plan!

“In January before his problems started, both of us had signed up for Ralph’s tenth and Jean’s eighth year of riding the PMC.  But in May, Ralph decided not to ride this year and focus on recovery. Jean is keeping his spirits high. She’s been out training and plans to carry the prayer flags and the Hammond spirit on the Sunday route in August.”

— From Jean’s 2013 letter to supporters

In addition to keeping the Hammond spirit alive, Jean said that last year’s PMC ride provided a focus during her recovery from a serious accident after the 2011 ride. “As hard as it was to came back,” she said, “I don’t believe that my injuries or recovery compare to a daunting cancer diagnosis or its treatment. But I hope that the PMC fundraising can ensure that all cancer patients receive the same great care and hopeful outlook that was accorded me.”

The PMC Spirit – Support Bedford’s PMC Riders

PMC logoCommunity, commitment and character seem to permeate PMC riders’ connection to the ride. Training for the PMC begins in the winter, and riders often clock 2,000 to 3,000 miles on indoor bikes before getting outside to ride when the weather improves. In addition, fundraising is part of the preparation.

According to the PMC website, riders commit first to the ride’s fundraising mission and then to the bike ride. Each rider is asked to raise funds on a sliding minimum scale ranging from $500 for the youngest riders (ages 13-17) through Heavy Hitter riders whose minimum is $6,700.

Together the Hammonds have raised more than $57,000 over the years, but they insist that it’s a “drop in the bucket” compared to other riders’ cumulative totals.

Click on a name to learn more about this year’s Bedford riders, or to contribute to their fundraising goal:  Marc Canner, MC0348; Michael Chong, MC0471; Jim Clement, JC0607; Al Filosa, AF0111; Rodney Green, RG0158; Duncan Greenhalgh, DG0193; Scott Griffith, SG0151; Jean Hammond, JH0241; Dan Hurwitz, DH0128; Ken Keiffer, KK0152; Chris Marino, CM0156; John Martin, JM0600; Amy Mason, AM0085; Bruce Murphy, RM0122; Lisa Paiva, LP0075; Vic Petri, VP0018; Frank Richichi, FR0010; Martin Rogers, MR0111; Luke Sabella, LS0012; Michelle Sanders, MS0463; Brendan Shank, BS0217; and Joe Titlow, JT0205.

You can also contribute to PMC by calling (800) WE-CYCLE, or by sending a check payable to PMC (with the rider’s name and fundraising ID on the memo line) to 77 Fourth Ave., Needham, MA, 02494


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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rowena jimenez
rowena jimenez
8 years ago

Go Ralph and Jean! What a wonderful path you’re leading others to… a path that to Community, Commitment and Character!

Kathleen Clark
Kathleen Clark
9 years ago

I’ve often seen the colorful flags hanging between the trees in the front yard of a home down the road from a good friend of mine, and wondered what they were. I now know, after reading this article, that they have a significance and meaning far deeper and more beautiful than anything I could have imagined. I also now know to whom they belong; Mr. Hammond was the pedal partner who rode with my kids and I the very first time we rode in the Bedford PMC, I will never forget that bouyantly-spirited man, who spoke along the ride of his connection to Bedford schools (a much loved teacher and administrator), & his own personal trials and victories he has endured as a cancer survivor. The prayer flags he & his wife carry, in recognition and support of those whose names they bear, are a beautiful and lasting tribute to those who have been touched by cancer.

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