Loyola High student runs cycling event to fight cancer

Parkton event honors Hannafin's lost friend, has raised more than $15,000

August 18, 2012|The Baltimore Sun

Ian Hannafin has been fighting to find a cure for cancer since neuroblastoma stole his best friend, Joseph Messina, more than half a decade ago. It was then that Hannafin decided to create his own fundraising event, which has raised more than $15,000, and he has been in charge of running it ever since.

Hannafin, now a rising senior at Loyola High, is only 17.

He started the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge Parkton Kids Ride in 2008, when he was just 13. The event is one of 35 PMC Kids Rides, held mainly in New England. Hannafin, who lived in Massachusetts until he was 10, decided to bring the PMC with him when he moved to Maryland in 2005.

"[Cancer] is a terrible disease and I don't want to see someone suffer as my friends and family do," Hannafin said. "I want to help to get rid of it, that's my only reason [to fight], really."

Hannafin said he hopes to raise at least $5,000 this year when the cyclists return to the North Central Railroad Trail on Aug. 19 in Parkton. Hannafin expects nearly 100 riders, mainly ages 6 to 15, to participate.

Hannafin got the idea to start the event from the PMC bike-a-thon, a 190-mile adult cycling event created in 1980 that extends through 46 towns across Massachusetts. Nearly 6,000 cyclists participate each year, and that event has raised more than $338 million for cancer research.

Hannafin, who started volunteering with PMC in 2005, was aware that sort of mileage would be too much for children.

But the concept was perfect.

"It's an easy way for kids to get involved, and biking is a lot of fun," he said. "I just love riding and I think it's a great way for kids to help out by getting active. … No matter how old, they can make a difference in some way just by pedaling."

Hannafin said that most who participate in the seven- or 14-mile Parkton event are recruited by word of mouth or by just being friends with Hannafin or his sister, Fiona, 14, a rising Notre Dame Prep freshman who he hopes will run the event once Hannafin goes to college.

He added that those recruited can form teams to fundraise as a unit, a feature new to the event this year. If a participant raises more than $250, PMC declares him a "heavy hitter" and he gets his name on the organization's website and receives prizes such as hats and stickers.

But the cyclists, some who are cancer survivors themselves, are aware that each penny raised gets them closer not only to those rewards, but also to something much bigger: a cure for the disease.

"It was just terrible watching my friend and his family suffer so much from this disease and it really had a big impact on me," Hannafin said.

"I don't want [cancer] to happen anymore. I just don't. I'm just trying to do anything I can to find a cure for this."

For information, go to kids.pmc.org/parkton.

egarland@baltsun.com

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