WILMINGTON — This past Sunday, Wilmington kids proved that you don’t need to grow up before you can start making a difference as they pedaled for a cure to raise around $12,000 for cancer research.

A total of 99 Wilmington kids between the ages of 3 and 12 rode their bikes on Sunday morning at the Boutwell Elementary School to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund as part of the PMC Kids Ride.

The PMC Kids Ride is an offshoot of the Pan-Mass Challenge, according to Wilmington coordinator Sue Hendee. Hendee is a physical education teacher at the Shawsheen Elementary School and a Wilmington High School girls’ soccer coach.

Hendee grew up outside of Rochester, NY and graduated from Springfield College; she’s now taught phys. ed. for 37 years. She has participated in the bike-a-thon of varying distances for almost 30 years since she lost her mother in 1988 from breast cancer.

“I wanted to do something to make sure that we can make money to wipe cancer out,” she said.

The physical education teacher found the Pan-Mass Challenge to be a great way to work raising money for cancer into her profession. What Hendee enjoys if that she’s able to not only teach kids about being healthy but also keep herself healthy.

“The PMC is actually the number one one-day charitable fundraising event in the world,” she said. “They’ve raised over half a billion dollars in 40 years.”

Her desire in bringing the event to Wilmington was to teach kids how they can help others and be healthy at the same time.

According to the PMC website, “the kids’ ride is designed to provide children, parents, and neighbors with the chance to create bike-a-thons and solicit sponsors to donate money toward cancer research”.

Every kid who rides pays a $15 registration fee and has to meet a fundraising requirement of $30 by the day of the race. Then, they’re encouraged to raise money according to how many laps of the course they complete. All of the participants are given a t-shirt, a water bottle, stick-on tattoos, and other prizes from the PMC.

Hendee led the first Wilmington PMC ride in 2005 with her neighbor and friend Carolyn Priem. This year was their 14th annual kids ride although her college roommate Sheila Salois is now her co-coordinator. Sunday saw about 150 spectators and parents, 99 riders, 26 volunteers from town, five or six members of the Kiwanis Club making hotdogs, and a few police officers monitoring safety. She especially appreciated the way that the community came together to donate their time and money for the cause.

Hendee’s own role on race day, and that of Sheila Salois, consisted mostly of getting the volunteers organized and assigning them jobs — face-painting, maintaining the refreshments, registration, setup, cleanup, cheering, and running raffles. Prior to race day, the pair were busy organizing and collecting volunteers.

“Now that the process has been streamlined, we pretty much keep the rides the same,” she continued. “It works well and it’s safe.”

Going forward, they’re proud of the amount of money that the kids raise but would love for their numbers to continue to grow.

Wilmington’s kids’ ride is separated into three sections: preschool, kindergarten through second grade, and third-through-sixth grades. Preschool children participate in what they call Tykes on Trikes, an obstacle course inside the tennis courts.

The sections for grades K-2 and 3-6, respectively, go around a one-mile loop inside an allotted time period. During the ride, parents and spectators and volunteers cheer them on; a DJ plays music; and other activities like face-painting and hotdog-eating go on around them.

While the participating kids may be between the ages of 3 and 12, Hendee explained that it does really have meaning for them.

“I know that they feel good about themselves and what they’ve done raising money for kids who have cancer,” she shared.

She acknowledges that the kids having fun is a given and getting a sense of fulfillment from helping people is a bonus.

From now until September 1st, all of the kids who raced are still able to receive sponsorships.

“What I recommend they do is send out an email after the event and ask people to sponsor them according to how many laps they completed.”

They each have a webpage associated to their fundraising efforts courtesy of the PMC where they can direct people to donate. They’re well on their way to meet their goal for this year of $15,000 with the help of really consistent fundraisers and dedicated people in town.

General donations for the Wilmington PMC Kids Ride can be placed online at kids.pmc.org/Wilmington.

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