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Hopkinton coach pedals for many in Pan-Mass Challenge

Lauri Izzi (left)

Lauri Izzi (left)

For 192 miles in the saddle of her bicycle this weekend, Lauri Izzi will have plenty of time to think. About the scenery, her fellow riders, the physical exhaustion. But mostly, she’ll think about cancer and the people the insidious disease has affected.

“I’ll think about my grandmother, all the people I know who are affected by cancer, all the people I don’t know who are affected,” Izzi said. “For me, I’m so grateful to have a body that’s just able to do this. I had a need, I wanted to give back. … And maybe this will help them find a cure, and maybe I’ll live to see it.”

Izzi will be one of thousands of cyclists to take part in the Pan-Mass Challenge that raises money for the Jimmy Fund. One- and two-day rides range from 27 miles to the 192 Izzi will cover between Sturbridge and Provincetown, Mass., with a layover tomorrow night in Bourne. The Pan-Mass Challenge, founded in 1980, raises more money than any athletic fundraising event in the country, according to its website, and is the single largest contributor to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, generating half of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue.

It’s a cause that hit home for Izzi in the seventh grade, when she watched her grandmother Rose Izzi die of lung cancer. It affected her more recently when a friend and then a colleague were diagnosed with cancer. Izzi, the varsity girls’ soccer coach at Hopkinton High, met Kristen Fucarile while coaching at Kearsarge High a decade ago and the two formed a lasting friendship. Fucarile and her mother are both breast cancer survivors. And then last year, a fellow coach – Amy Dutton at Belmont High – began her battle with cancer.

“We’re going to play them next Wednesday, and I find myself thinking ‘how can I just go up and brighten Amy’s day?’ ” Izzi said. “We’re going to wear pink pinnies, put on our pink wristbands. Everyone is so affected by cancer.”

A quarterback for seven years with the former N.H. Freedom women’s football team and a former runner, Izzi had hoped to run a marathon to raise money for charity, but her knees would not cooperate.

“That was really upsetting for me,” she said, “because I wanted to give back to the community as much as I can.”

The JV soccer coach at Hopkinton, Joe Masci, had been doing the Pan-Mass Challenge for several years and asked Izzi if she wanted to ride. She started last year with the 125-mile Harbor to the Bay ride, and upped the challenge this year with the Pan-Mass.

“I really felt a personal attachment to it, so I decided to do it,” Izzi said.

She gets in as many miles a week as she can to train, pedaling to and from work for about 60 miles a day.

“I’m nervous, because it’s my first time, but I’m so utterly excited to be a part of it,” she said. “… It’s 100 percent worth it. When it’s all said and done, I’d do it over a million times, no matter how hard it was.”

She’ll ride with the largest team in the challenge, the Patriots Platelet Pedalers, who have raised more than $4.4 million since 2008. So far, Izzi has received $3,500 toward her goal of $6,000.

“I wanted to aim high, just because I believe in it so much,” she said. “Every time someone donates, I’ll think about them on the ride. They don’t have to cheer me on on the street, they’ll just be with me.”

(Donations will be accepted until Oct. 1. Visit Izzi’s page at www2.pmc.org/profile/LI0011.)

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