Parkton teen holds charity bike ride for cancer research

Ian Hannafin, 15, organizes Parkton Kids Ride in memory of childhood friend

August 14, 2010|By Sarah Tan, The Baltimore Sun

When Ian Hannafin's close friend died of cancer five years ago, he wanted to do something to help fight the disease so other families wouldn't have to suffer.

The 15-year-old, who lives in Parkton, was only 10 when his close friend and neighbor, Joseph Messina, died of cancer in 2005. Joseph suffered from neuroblastoma and died at the age of 5, and after experiencing his death, Ian felt compelled to help.

"When my friend died of cancer, I wanted to do something. I just couldn't stand watching their family suffer so much. I just didn't want to let it happen again," Ian said.

Ian, who at the time lived in Massachusetts, began volunteering for the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a two-day, 190-mile bike-a-thon that raises money for cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. While he was too young to ride in the event, Ian helped give out water and Gatorade to riders.

When his family moved to Maryland a few years later, Ian brought his connection to the PMC and his volunteering spirit with him. In 2008, he started the PMC Kids Ride in Parkton, a 14-mile bike ride for children ages 6-16 that raises money for Dana-Farber. This year, the ride is set for Saturday at the Northern Central Railroad Trail.

"The PMC had been doing kids' rides, and at the water stops people were talking about how they volunteered at those as well, so I just thought it would be a good idea," Ian said. When he first started the PMC Kids Ride in Maryland, he was the youngest person organizing one of the rides, which are typically held in Massachusetts.

"When I first organized it in 2008, I was the only kid doing it; everyone else was adults. But after I did it, our friends started starting up their own PMC rides," he said.

Ian's younger sister, Fiona, 12, has also begun helping out with organizing the rides. This year, she did a presentation at her school, Notre Dame Preparatory, to help garner volunteers for the ride.

Though organizing the event every year sometimes means coming home early from school to call or e-mail sponsors, Ian and Fiona don't feel like it's a burden.

"It's well worth it," Fiona said.

Last year, their ride had 53 kids participating, and they raised almost $7,000, all of which went to the Dana-Farber Institute. This year, Ian and Fiona are hoping to get 100 participants and raise $10,000.

The PMC Parkton ride will be sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods, the Maryland Defense Force and Joey's Blood Buddies, a charity organization begun by Holly Messina, the mother of Joseph Messina.

Ian, who is entering 10th grade at Loyola Blakefield High School, hopes to continue the event for many years to come. Next year, when he's old enough, Ian also plans to ride in the two-day PMC ride in Massachusetts.

Fiona said that the work she has put into helping with the race has inspired her to consider a career in cancer research.

"One day, I plan to find a cure for cancer or be in cancer research. I've always wanted to do that since Joseph passed away," Fiona said.

Their mother, Nancy Hannafin, is mostly hands-off in this operation.

"It's really their work," said Hannafin, who is a registered nurse and helps with first aid during the ride.

"Ian's a real motivated kid, Fiona is as well, and I think the PMC has given them a ton of support. They've really been very supportive," Hannafin said.

Both Ian and Fiona also continue to volunteer at the annual PMC ride in Barnstable, Mass. Earlier this month, they traveled there to help set up and give out water for the event.

And Ian insists that organizing the event isn't as daunting a task as it might seem for a teenager.

"It's not really difficult," he said. "It's just like, we want to make a difference; we don't want this to happen to anyone else."

PMC Parkton Kids Ride

Saturday, NCR Trail. Registration is $10 and begins at 8 a.m.; ride begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. A fundraising minimum of $25 is suggested. For more details, go to

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