Freetime: Jeff Lannon, Pro-Link
During the first weekend of August, Jeff Lannon rode 192 miles across Massachusetts, from Sturbridge to Provincetown, on a bicycle. He passed through 46 towns, including his own, Franklin, Mass. His impressive ride raised more than $4,300 for charity.
Jeff, northeast regional manager for Pro-Link Inc. of Canton, Mass., is a regular participant in the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual two-day bike-a-thon that raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. Since it was founded in 1980, it has raised more than $375 million for cancer care and research.
The charity has special meaning to Jeff. He lost his dad, sister, brother-in-law and uncle to cancer.
“The cycling is the easy part of the Pan-Mass,” says Jeff. “Raising the amount of money you’re required to raise as a participant is what’s difficult. I try to get smaller donations from a lot of people rather than large donations from a few, because it means I’m involving more people, most of whom have been touched by cancer in some way.”
Jeff conducts a grassroots fundraising campaign. He writes letters and contacts local businesses for donations, and even sets up a table in front of the local supermarket one weekend to offer passersby honorary or memorial ribbons in exchange for donations.
“People can write the names of cancer survivors or those who fought the disease on the ribbons, and I wear the ribbons pinned to my back during the race,” he says.
Jeff has always been a cyclist. Cycling is as part of his fitness regimen. GPS shows that Jeff pedaled 2,052 training miles to prepare for this latest race.
“Roughly the distance from Boston to Gallup, N.M.,” he says.
Jeff rides with a team from his hometown. On each race day, the cyclists start logging miles at 5 a.m.
“After the first day, we spent the night at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy,” says Jeff. “Four people shared an non-air conditioned dorm room, and it was brutal. All night it felt like someone was turning up the temperature. But then I thought, ‘I can deal with this for one night compared to what cancer patients go through.’”
The Pan-Mass organization connects teams with pediatric oncology patients called “Pedal Partners.” This year Jeff’s partner was Silas, a seven-year-old boy born with liver cancer. Chemotherapy treatments caused Silas to lose his hearing.
“Our Pedal Partner, Silas, kept us motivated and reminded us of why we are doing the ride,” says Jeff.
All along the ride, people line the streets waving signs and ringing cowbells to cheer on and inspire the cyclists.
“One town has a two-mile hill, and the entire length of the road was lined with people and flags and banners and even a bagpiper,” says Jeff. “It’s sometimes difficult to ride without falling off your bike with emotion.”