Three Larchmont Friends Bike Across USA For Cancer Cause

by Stephanie Chelf

(May 28, 2008) For three Larchmont natives, a two-day,192-mile charity bike-a-thon across Massachusetts will have an early start and a long warm-up.

Justin Merolla, Jamie Merolla and Ben Herrmann will start their ride in San Francisco on June 1 - 4100 miles and eight weeks before they join 5,500 other cyclists entered in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. The trio will bike through mountains and deserts, ultimately arriving August 2 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts for the start of the 29th annual PMC.

Last year, another MHS grad biked from Colorado to his parents' home in Larchmont to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation's fight against cancer. (See: Larchmont Native Covers 2,600 Miles - On Two Wheels.)

MHS grads Ben Herrmann, Jamie Merolla and Justin Merolla are in training to bike from San Francisco to Sturbridge, Massachusetts to raise funds for cancer research and treatment.

The PMC riders aim to raise $34 million for cancer research and treatment of adult and pediatric cancer patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund. Since 1980, the PMC has raised more than $204 million for cancer research and treatment.

Brothers Justin, 24, and Jamie, 19, lost their mother to breast cancer in 1995. Their father, who supported cancer research as a long-time PMC rider, died in 1998 at age 46 from a blood clot.

“My brother and I are close to the cancer cause,” said Justin Merolla, who rode in the PMC last year for the first time. “Riding across the country is a way to do something in their memory and to identify with my dad. I’d like to think they’d be proud of us. It’s really something for us to do for them.”

The trio will leave from New York City and fly to San Francisco. They plan to begin their ride from the San Francisco Bay, dipping their tires in the Pacific Ocean on June 1.

Their goal is to raise $75,000 in their cross-country bicycle ride. They’ve dubbed their trip the PAN USA Challenge.

“Raising money for research is the main goal. The other stuff is just fun,” Jamie Merolla said. “We’ve been training for a while now and I’m more excited about this than anything else in my life. I feel connected to both my mother and my father as I do this.”

To keep costs low, each cyclist will have a trailer attached to their bike filled with camping gear and other items. They hope to ride 80 to 100 miles day, and plan to visit local hospitals along the way to visit with cancer patients. They also plan to sell Pan USA Challenge bracelets for $1, with all the money going to the PMC.

All three riders are Mamaroneck High School graduates. Justin Merolla, who recently was working in finance in Boston, is now living in New York City. Jamie Merolla is a student at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Ben Herrmann lives in New York City and will attend law school in the fall.

The three will be blogging about their ride at panusachallenge.org. They’ve provided links on the blog so supporters can donate online to the cancer fund.


Stephanie Chelf is with Teak Media Communications. Since 1980, the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge has raised more than $204 million for cancer research and treatment. For more information or to contribute, visit pmc.org or call 800-WE-CYCLE.