Island Resident Biking To Help Combat Cancer

David Creed •

Zach Place
Zach Place (far right) with three of his teammates at the Pan-Mass Challenge last year. Photo courtesy of Zach Place.

Zach Place, a longtime island resident and bartender who grew up on Nantucket, will be partaking in the 2024 Pan-Mass Challenge. This will be Place's second straight year participating in what will add up to be a 162 mile bike ride as a member of Team Fitz - supporting his mother-in-law Maureen, who has been battling bone cancer for 15 years. You can donate to his fundraiser here.

“We raise funds and basically working in the restaurant, I was able to have a QR code with a little blurb on the bar and you know, face to face you're talking to someone and then someone hears it, and they've been through it, or they lost someone,” Place said. “Everyone's been affected by cancer one way or the other. It's a little tougher this year not being in the restaurant and not having that face to face and just kind of spreading it around. Last year I raised $23,000 for my first year.”

The bike ride will be split into two parts. Place and roughly 40 other bikers who are members of Team Fitz will begin in Wellesley and bike down to Bourne, stay over at Mass Maritime Academy, and then bike from Bourne to Provincetown the next day.

Place will also be riding to support Owen Noonan, the four-year-old son of a close family friend who was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in December and has been receiving treatment at Boston Children's Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. You can donate to Noonan's fundraiser and learn more about his journey by clicking here.

Place raised over $23,000 last year, nearly quadrupling his $6,000 goal. He has worked at several island restaurants such as the Boarding House, Pearl, Or, The Whale, and most recently worked at the SeaGrille, and credited the relationships he made with customers and their generosity for his successful fundraising campaign.

But with Place stepping away from the restaurant industry this year, the fundraising has become more challenging. The Pan-Mass Challenge will take place in less than a month on August 3 and August 4. The PMC has raised $972 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since it was founded in 1980 and is Dana-Farber’s largest supporter – providing 62 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue.

Place will be just one of the thousands of riders taking part in this bike-a-thon, but every biker is taking on this challenge with one common goal, and that is to combat and beat cancer. He said he knows the Nantucket community frequently steps forward to support causes such as this one.

"I know the Nantucket community is always great about being there for others,” he said. “I know a lot of people have been awesome. I am just trying to spread the word as much as I can ahead of the event. Every biker is part of this team. Last year, I was able to give some of the money I raised to other people on Team Fitz who didn’t make their goal. It is that team mentality. The end goal is to raise as much money as we can to help fight cancer.”

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