Cyclist gets support for 190-mile cancer research ride

Bill Browning stands with friend and owner Ciaran Carruthers. Officer Browning is supporting Mr. Carruthers in an effort to raise money for cancer research through a bike ride called the Pan-Mass Challenge, which starts Saturday, Aug. 3. Mr. Carruthers is committed to raise $4,300 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. His personal goal is to raise more than double that — $10,000. —Steve Coulter photo

Bill Browning stands with friend and owner Ciaran Carruthers. Officer Browning is supporting Mr. Carruthers in an effort to raise money for cancer research through a bike ride called the Pan-Mass Challenge, which starts Saturday, Aug. 3. Mr. Carruthers is committed to raise $4,300 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. His personal goal is to raise more than double that — $10,000. —Steve Coulter photo

Ciaran Carruthers doesn’t mind asking for money once a year.

Mr. Carruthers, a Ridgefield resident, is a mountain bike rider, but every summer he hits the road to participate in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day, 190-mile bike ride that raises money for cancer research.

“The Pan-Mass Challenge isn’t about racing — it’s about raising as much money as possible for cancer research,” said Mr. Carruthers, who owns Emerald Organic. “All the money goes to the same place — Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It’s for the greatest cause I can think of.

“If cancer research can save or extend a life, then it’s worth our collective efforts.”

One of Mr. Carruthers’ biggest supporters is his longtime friend Bill Browning, a former officer of the Ridgefield Police Department who is now chief of dispatching at the police headquarters.

Mr. Browning was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 1999, when he took a physical as part of his application to join the department

“It’s quite a shock when you think you’re in perfect health to hear you have leukemia,” he said.

He was able to overcome the disease and raced in numerous bicycle marathons for the Leukemia Society until 2009, when he was injured in an accident where he fell off a ladder helping a friend trim a tree.

He was left partially paralyzed and could not return to the force, and worse off, he was told he wouldn’t be able to ride anymore.

“I can’t ride anymore so Ciaran is my legs and I support him anyway I can,” Mr. Browning said. “One of the good things about being diagnosed back in 1999 was all the fundraising I was able to do — I didn’t want that to stop after my accident three years ago.”

The Ridgefield Police brought Mr. Browning back to the force as a civilian communications supervisor that allows him to keep working at the dispatch desk.

“There’s a lot of people out there in worse conditions than I’m in,” he said.

Mr. Browning isn’t the only one who has been affected by cancer. Mr. Carruthers lost both his parents to the disease back in his native Ireland and, over the last two months, he has seen three friends die from breast cancer.

In addition, his fellow rider, Gil Cormier, who participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge, died last Thanksgiving from prostate cancer.

“You’re not supposed to die of prostate cancer at his age and it’s just a tragedy,” said Mr. Carruthers, who is riding this year in memory of his deceased friend.

One of the reasons Mr. Carruthers initially joined the Pan-Mass Challenge was that the race gave 100% of its funds to Dana-Farber.

“There are plenty of fundraising rides where you don’t know where your money is truly going — that isn’t the case with Pan-Mass,” he said.

This year’s ride will be the 34th Pan-Mass Challenge.

Mr. Carruthers says one of the cooler things about the two-day ride is the support the riders get on Cherry Street in Wrentham, Mass. on the first day.

“They have a drumset sit-in with amplifiers and guitars — the whole celebration is really exciting because the whole community is involved in cheering us on,” he explains.

The rides goes from Sturbridge Village to Provincetown, Mass.

This year’s ride is at maximum with 5,500 riders signed up. Mr. Carruthers will ride with a group called the Bourne Believers.

He gives a lot of credit to event’s organizers.

“The organizers do a spectacular job with all logistics,” Mr. Carruthers said. “It’s not easy to handle 5,500 riders with all their  accommodations.

“There’s not enough strides in cancer research and their efforts are crucial to making the ride go as smooth as possible.”

Mr. Carruthers has pledged to raise $4,300 personally, but his goal is to reach the $10,000 plateau for the first time.

Last year he raised $9,800 and over eight races has raised $49,460.

“Most of my supporters are blue collar so I don’t want ask to much of them,” he said. “There is some serious money involved in this though — some people raise $100,000 through company matching and stuff like that which is a great help to the cause.”

The race has raised more than $350 million since its inception in 1980.

Mr. Carruthers recognizes that people’s donations have been smaller since the economy’s collapse in 2008. However, he remains steadfast in seeking contributions.

“The checks are getting smaller but that can’t stop our resolve as a community in fighting this disease,” Mr. Carruthers said.

Mr. Browning see’s the importance in showing his support and coaxing his fellow officers into donating to Mr. Carruther’s ride.

“Every bit helps,” Mr. Browning. “Whether it’s donating $5 bucks, instead of getting a latte at Starbucks, or it’s donating $1,000. The money is all going toward cancer research which is something that’s extremely important to pretty much everyone.”

To donate, email [email protected] for more information or mail it directly to Ciaran Carruthers at 10 Marie Lane, Ridgefield, CT, 06877.

If you’d like to write a check, please make it out to the Pan-Mass Challenge, the Jimmy Fund or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. To donate online, go to pmc.org/donation. Mr. Carruthers’ online # is cc0183.

If your employer has a matching gift program, ask your Human Resources department for a form and follow the process for matches.

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