Riding in sync – Pan-Mass cyclists team up in support of cause
Throughout his entire life, Nick Riccio can recall always having played hockey.
It’s his “lifelong passion” and “love,” Riccio said.
He played through college, starting off at Salem State University and eventually transferring to Southern New Hampshire University where he would become captain and leader of the 2013-14 Northeast-10 Conference Division II championship team. It was the first time the institution’s team received that title.
He would later become an assistant coach.
Ken Hutchins, who coached the team at the time, said Riccio was an incredible leader and “his character on and off the ice was impeccable.”
A decade later, Riccio was diagnosed with colon cancer.
When news reached the champion Penmen players, some teamed up and vowed to complete the Pan-Mass Challenge with Riccio if he was feeling well enough.
On Saturday, Aug. 5, Riccio, Hutchins and eight members of the 2013-14 hockey team set off on the challenge’s Wellesley to Bourne route for a total of 84 miles.
Collectively, the team received approximately $46,000 to donate toward cancer research at Dana-Farber as of Friday, Aug. 4.
This year, the Pan-Mass Challenge organization aimed to raise $70 million.
Riccio said it was Hutchins who proposed the idea to the team.
“He’s a great friend and he's done all of these things to support me,” he said. “He's just always been there for me.”
Regarding the challenge, Riccio said, “For me, it's obviously really near and dear to my heart. It's an incredible event and just the amount of support and fundraising that the whole event does is life changing, so we're super excited for it.”
Hutchins said when the challenge was over, the team met at his summer cottage in Onset and celebrated.
In 2013, while the Penmen hockey team was winning its championship, Wareham’s Cody Stahmer was heading into his freshman year of college.
This is when Stahmer would discover he had testicular cancer.
With his mom, Nichole Wade, Stahmer would go to his cancer treatments at Dana-Farber in Boston.
Wade recalls seeing advertisements of the Pan-Mass Challenge while there.
“I always said I wanted to do it, but never had taken the plunge and then as I kept watching my son and I was trying to figure out a way to spin the negative into a positive I decided that you know what, I can do something to help rather than just dwell on what's going wrong,” she said.
Wade said biking became an emotional outlet for her.
For the last 10 years, Wade has completed the Pan-Mass Challenge and in celebration of this milestone, three friends of her and Stahmer’s joined for the ride.
The team rode from Sturbridge to Provincetown for a total of 186 miles, each committing to raising $6,000.
Waiting on the sidelines where Indian Neck Road, Minot Avenue and Oak Street meet, Stahmer cheered on cyclists while holding his newborn baby, Teagan.
Stahmer said, “Baby came three weeks ago, and now she's here to cheer on the team.”
Wade said this year’s ride was “pretty epic.”
“Ten years ago, I was riding and my eyes were filled with tears because my son was just surviving,” she said.
“He never knew if he could have a child,” Wade added. “To have Teagan here 10 years later, and seeing my family thriving is just such a testament to Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund and what they do for families and saving lives.”