MILLBURY, Mass. - Jonathan Gualdarrama is a very special young man and anyone who meets him will agree. He has a infectious smile that lights up the room and is a bright engaging young man.
Gualdarrama, 5, was diagnosed with Leukemia in September of 2010, but it hasn't stopped him from enjoying a variety of life's joys as well as challenges. And because he is such a role model, he was named a Pedal Partner of the 33rd annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.
As a PMC Pedal Partner, Jonathan will be matched with a team of cyclists who will ride in the August event in his honor. A vital part of the PMC weekend, Pedal Partners inspire more than 5,500 cyclists as they ride up to 190-miles across Massachusetts and raise money for adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.
Jonathan is being treated in Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic. During his initial stages, Jonathan had severe pain in his legs that doctors first thought was due to severe growing pains. It was only after more tests that the leukemia was found. He then had to endure the long and at times severe chemo treatments which weakened an already compromised immune system.
But one thing that remains constant is Jonathan. "He's amazing," his mother said on Friday afternoon at the Millbury Common. "He's been through a lot but doesn't let anything get him down."
The PMC Pedal Partner program, now in its 12th year, matches Jimmy Fund Clinic patients with PMC cyclists. PMC Pedal Partners range in age from infants to teenagers.
Jonathan will be honored May 19 at Fenway Park in Boston during the PMC Pedal Partner program kick off party. During the event, Pedal Partners and their families will meet the cyclists riding in their honor while enjoying games, activities and brunch. The PMC Pedal Partner program is sponsored by John Hancock.
Jonathan is no stranger to Fenway Park having been there before as part of the Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon. Former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon brought a baseball to the bullpen and had all the pitchers sign it said his mom, Julie Geddes.
But perhaps his biggest thrill was getting to announce former Shortstop Marco Scutaro on the PA before his first at-bat. "Jonathan had been practicing Jared Saltalamacchia's name in between innings," said Geddes. "But at the last minute his turn came up and he had Scutaro, and he was thrilled."
The Pedal Partner program offers an inspiring opportunity for PMC cyclists to connect with pediatric cancer patients. For the children, being designated a Pedal Partner is an exciting experience that can be a distraction from their cancer treatments. More often than not, PMC cyclists and Pedal Partner families form long-lasting friendships that extend beyond the PMC.
While riding on PMC weekend, cyclists are greeted by poster-sized photographs of the Pedal Partners, lined up along the road as inspiration to get them through the challenging ride.
On Saturday Aug. 4, Pedal Partners and their families gather at a water stop on the PMC route in Lakeville to cheer on their teams. The riders stop to spend time with their Pedal Partner before getting back on the road. For riders and families this meet up is emotional and meaningful.
“Pedal Partners inspire and motivate PMC riders to train, raise money, and complete the vigorous cycling challenge,” says Billy Starr, PMC founder and executive director. “The Pedal Partner program is a special way for us to extend our ride to the children and families for whom cancer is a daily reality. Being connected to the children for whom they are riding and raising money is an emotional and empowering experience for PMC riders.”
About the Jimmy Fund
The Jimmy Fund (www.JimmyFund.org) solely supports Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world. It is an official charity of the Boston Red Sox, as well as the official charity of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, and the Variety Children's Charity of New England. Since 1948, the generosity of millions of people has helped the Jimmy Fund save countless lives and reduce the burden of cancer for patients and families worldwide. Follow the Jimmy Fund on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thejimmyfund and on Twitter: @TheJimmyFund.
About the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge
The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge is an annual bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. The organization was founded in 1980 and has since raised $338 million for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund. The PMC pioneered the athletic fundraising industry and is a model of fundraising efficiency. The PMC donates 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar directly to the cause. In 2011, the PMC generated 52 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and was Dana-Farber’s single largest contributor. More than 230,000 individual contributions were made to last year’s fundraising campaign. In 2012, PMC cyclists will ride with the goal of raising $36 million for Dana-Farber.