The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a Bay State bike-a-thon that has participants cycling up to 192 miles over two days, takes place Aug. 4 and 5 this year. Local Team Emma's Enchantment is getting ready to ride for the 7th time, and fundraising by this year's participants will push the team past the $1 million mark for money raised for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. More specifically, money raised will go to the institute's fund to research low-grade astrocytoma, which is the kind of brain cancer Emma Bechert has been battling since before her 2nd birthday.
In September, Emma will turn 11 and enter the fifth grade at Bedford's McKelvie Intermediate School. Her family said her biggest accomplishment is not being known as “the cancer kid” at school. With a list of extracurricular activities — including Destination Imagination, Girl Scouts, theater and chorus — I don't think there's any danger of that! Fortunately, she still makes time to goof off with friends and boss around her little brother Owen, who is 9. But cancer is her reality, and Emma is just completing a two-year chemotherapy protocol and hoping to get some more hair back before school starts. Her cancer won't go away, but it can be kept at bay. The key is finding ways to do it that don't cause too many other problems.
Mandy and Tim Bechert, Emma's parents, participate in the PMC to help fund the research that can slow this disease for their daughter and for the other families who will one day face a diagnosis like they did.
“I ride with hope in my heart that all these miles are making a difference. Not just to Emma but to her brother, who gets left behind on treatment days. For Tim and I, who just need to take a deep breath. I ride with Tim and my dad (himself a cancer survivor facing new challenges) and so many wonderful friends who make up Team Emma's Enchantment. I ride because I have to. It helps me breathe. It makes me feel useful. I ride because someone told me my child had cancer and I didn't know what else to do,” Mandy wrote on the team's website.
When I first met Tim Bechert, he was fairly new in town with a new job as general manager of the Verizon Wireless Arena. He was also new to being a dad of a daughter with cancer. His willingness to talk openly and honestly about it with fellow business leaders — even cry with them — made me realize that this important guy with a big job had an even bigger heart and was as genuine as they come. Clearly, this was the effect he had on many people around the Queen City because he's convinced a bunch of them to join him and Mandy in their PMC efforts. They include Joe Graham of Clear Channel, Mike and Tricia Benton of the Executive Health Sports Center, Jeff Eisenberg of Eisenberg Vital and Ryze Advertising, Dave Cushman of Holloway Motorcars of Manchester, Beth Roberts of Harvard Pilgrim, Andy Crews of Autofair, Rick Brenner of the Fisher Cats, and Renee Botnick of E&R Cleaners.
And these people are serious about the challenge.
“Three years ago,” Mandy told me, “Jeff Eisenberg's handlebars fell off 20 miles into the ride and he had a ridiculous crash. He refused the ambulance, put his bike back together, and rode the next 66 miles to finish with what ended up being a fractured shoulder blade. He simply said, 'It really was not a big deal compared to treatment for cancer.'”
I know a lot of people in this city, but I don't know that any of them would ride 66 miles with a broken bone for me. The Bechert family clearly has a special effect on people. To donate to Team Emma's Enchantment, visit www.pmc.org. Their team ID number is te0028. And if motorized bikes are more your thing, you can donate to or participate in the Aug. 26 Team Emma's Granite State Ride. This motorcycle ride ends on the field of Delta Dental Stadium for the singing of the national anthem at the beginning of a 1:35 p.m. Fisher Cats game. Visit www.emmasenchantment.org, for more information.
I got a great response after last week's column item about Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith's resemblance to James Vanderbeek of “Dawson's Creek” fame. I was relieved to hear directly from Smith, who fortunately has a great sense of humor and found the column amusing.
I also heard from many people who had celebrity look-alike suggestions for Smith opponent Ovide Lamontagne. I got many more responses than I normally get when I request feedback from my readers, and for a minute I was thinking people were actually reading this column. That was until my friend Liz Feren pointed out that the Lamontagne campaign had posted the column on its Facebook page and encouraged their followers to send in suggestions. Hey, I'll take what I can get!
Reader suggestions included Alec Baldwin “at his best,” Kevin Spacey, John Larroquette, Ciaran Hinds (I had to look that one up), and Sen. John Edwards. I agree with the last one. It is likely Lamontagne's least favorite look-alike, but I am declaring it the unofficial “winner” since it was suggested by more than one person, including former New Hampshire Speaker of the House Donna Sytek.
Liberty Harbor Academy seems like a pretty serious school with serious aspirations for its students. But, they obviously have a fun side too, as this summer they are offering Princess Charm School camp for girls 6 through 11. While the description at www.libertyharboracademy.org says this camp is for “aspiring princesses,” I'm pretty sure this is just a clever way to teach young ladies their manners. In addition to covering the importance of “please and thank you,” the three-day camp will teach poise, presence and table manners. There will be arts and crafts, which I'm sure will involve plenty of glitter, and a fashion show at the end of the week.
The girls will be learning from the best, as the “counselor” of this camp is the closest thing we have to a real princess in the Queen City, former Miss New Hampshire Michelle Lamontagne.
I adore the idea of this camp. And I'm wondering whether they could hold a class for adults. I'm still never sure which fork to use. Camp starts tomorrow, and it's not too late to sign up. Visit the school's website for more information.
Stark Park play
One of my favorite annual summer activities is a trip to Portsmouth's Prescott Park for the outdoor play. There's nothing like setting up lawn chairs and blankets to watch a play in the park. I'm thrilled that Manchester is going to have an outdoor performance of its own at Stark Park this week. The Majestic Theatre will perform “The Pinocchio Show” at 7 p.m. Thursday. This free show is a whole new take on the classic children's story. Thanks to Friends of Stark Park for bringing this new, fun summer pastime!
NH365.ORG Event of the Week
The Majestic Theatre is also producing “The Wizard of Oz” this weekend. This show has a cast of all ages and was choreographed by former Miss New Hampshire Candace (Glickman) Gatzoulis. The shows will be performed at Manchester Community Music School Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. For more information about this event and others taking place around the state, visit www.NH365.org. And if you would like your Manchester event to be considered as the NH365.org Event of the Week, be sure to enter it in the free, online calendar.
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