3rd Annual Karen Petty Memorial Double Century Bike Ride
Against Pancreatic Cancer
September 29th, 2012
I hope this letter finds you all well. Many of you who I write to today are dear friends of mine and some of you who support my ride are only bound to me by a common cause. That cause is our desire to end Pancreatic Cancer as a disease. I started the Karen Petty Double Century in 2010 in an effort to honor my lifelong friend Karen Petty, and to raise funds to defeat the disease that took her from us. For those of you who know Karen, you understand why I ride in her memory. Karen was loved by all who knew her. Her family adored her. I adore all of Karen’s family as brothers, sisters, and aunts, and uncles even though we share no blood relations. I grew up calling Karen “Auntie” and her husband “Uncle” Joe. As an only child, I didn’t have siblings. Karen’s own kids, Jason and Kerri, and her Nephew Billy were my brothers and sisters, and they are as important to me as if we were related by blood. I grew up with all of them, and always felt a part of their family. It only felt natural to do something “big” upon Karen’s passing, not only to honor Karen’s memory, but to show her family how much they all mean to me. I am not always rich in words, but I am capable of producing an occasional deed that can raise an eyebrow or two. This 200 mile, one day bike ride, which starts at Karen’s house in West Warwick, RI, to her Cabin in Thornton, NH, started as a deed I thought was honorable enough to memorialize Karen. I hope it has proven so.
In the ensuing years since the first ride, I have become very involved in our local affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. In short, they are the national leaders in the fight against Pancreatic Cancer. Since joining the organization 2 years ago, I am proud to say that I have been a part of a great team, many of who were close friends or family of Karen’s. Together, we have collectively raised around $350,000 and have made Rhode Island a leader in the fight against Pancreatic Cancer. Karen’s ride has raised almost $30,000 on its own, and we wish to increase and continue that success. One of the men that I met as a result of my volunteer work was a guy named Peter Washburn. He was actively fighting his own Pancreatic Cancer. Peter and I shared a lot of common interests, and our personalities really meshed. We became quick friends. He became my second friend to fight this disease for their lives, only this time I knew how deadly it really was. Peter was a picture of mental toughness. He never complained. He just fought like hell. I immediately idolized the man. He was everything I hoped I could be in his situation. We went on to plan last year’s Purple Stride Walk with the rest of our Rhode Island team. I spoke with Pete a couple times a week and he inspired me to fight even harder against this disease. After the walk, he took an interest in my bike ride since he was a cyclist as well. Pete even enlisted his nephew Tyler to ride with me for the 2011, 200 Mile ride. Peter’s tireless efforts in the fundraising process helped the ride to earn almost $18,000 last year. The man was just incredible. He rode in the support vehicle for 14 hours that day, waking at 2:00 am in the morning to make it happen and to cheer us on with his sisters at the start of the ride. All the while, he was fighting the Pancreatic Cancer in his body. He was the least healthy of us all by far, but showed more spirit and guts all day long than anyone else. I remember seeing him changing flat tires in the back of a bouncing, jostling, pickup truck on the way up to New Hampshire and my eyes filled up with tears thinking how tough the guy was, and just how much it meant to him to have the ride succeed. I loved him as a friend, and as an archetype of what a strong and loving man should be. Sadly, even Peter could not beat this disease, and he passed away about 3 months after the ride. Pete’s passing has strengthened my resolve even more. Pancreatic Cancer is virtually unstoppable with the medicines that are available to patients right now. The only way that we can defeat this disease is to raise money for research and awareness of the deadlines of this disease. The harder we fight, the more likely it is that the federal government will pass the much awaited Pancreatic Cancer Bill that will really give the funds and the impetus to kill this disease. Please help me bring the fight against Pancreatic Cancer in my own way; on two wheels, riding from Karen Petty’s home in West Warwick, RI to one of her favorite spots in the world, her cabin in Thornton, New Hampshire.
This will be my third time riding this annual ride. For the entire 200 miles this year, I will be accompanied by two great friends, Greg Anderson, who rode the ride with me last year, and Ed Hernaez, my buddy and great friend and one of the toughest athletes I know. Also John Braica, a close friend of mine and Karen’s will ride the last 100 miles with us, and we are lucky enough this year to have my skiing buddy Bill Fontaine and my father Leo Costantino (68 years young) ride those last 100 miles with us as well. I thank these amazing guys in advance for joining this fight with me. They are all true warriors, and I know we can ride this disease down to the ground together, all in Karen’s name.
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