The fifth year of the Pan Mass Cranberry County Kids Ride will mark the first time that the Dana Farber fundraiser will be held in honor and memory of a single person: Rochester’s Chloe Harding.
Harding passed away Feb. 17 at the age of 8 of acute lymphatic leukemia.
The Harding family has previously participated in the fundraiser, which takes place at Oak Point in Middleboro, and allows children to ride around the tennis courts, ride 1.6 miles, or take on a 2.8 mile course, before enjoying face paint, balloon artists, a DJ, bouncy houses and a pizza party to celebrate the riders.
Though the fundraiser asks children to raise a minimum of $30, Chloe went far beyond that, taking the first place for fundraising two years that she participated, and coming in second another year.
Chloe raised $7,825 in her own name over three years and her brother Wyatt raised $3,825 in the same three years.
Kids Ride organizer William Goldsmith describes the Hardings as a “close-knit, supportive, loving family.”
He reached out initially to the Hardings to introduce himself when he saw how much money Chloe and Wyatt were raising.
“Normally when children raise the amounts of money that Chloe and Wyatt were raising in their first year, it typically means a family member has had cancer. When Lindsay explained to me that Chloe was the cancer survivor I was surprised.” Goldsmith explained. “Normally you think in terms of a parent or grandparent, not a child.”
As the ride got closer, Goldsmith got to know the Hardings better, and asked if they would share Chloe’s story and their experiences with Dana Farber at the opening ceremony of the Kids Ride.
“Her remarks touched everyone that day. It helped to make clear the importance of the ride,” Goldsmith explained.
Like many others, Goldsmith was deeply saddened by Chloe’s passing.
“When I learned of Chloe’s passing I reached out to say how sorry I was to hear the news. Lindsay’s response was ‘we’re going to fundraise harder than ever this year,’” Goldsmith recounted.
While this year’s ride will be different without Chloe riding, Lindsay still wants to share her family’s story, as she has in previous years. Wyatt will still be riding in his sister’s honor, and Lindsay and her husband Harrison will volunteer at the event, as they have done in previous years.
Goldsmith admires their response to Chloe’s illness, “they were not about to give into their daughter’s illness and wanted her to live as normal a life as possible” and said, “it’s amazing how deeply you feel about them.”
He regularly does school visits to increase participation in the ride, and said that visiting Chloe’s old school, Rochester Memorial School to raise awareness for the June 2 fundraiser will be one of his most emotional visits this year.
Beyond inspiring Goldsmith, Chloe’s fight with cancer also inspired the Rochester community to rally around her with a Caring for Chloe Team that has raised $41,686 in the previous three years.
Bryan Bastoni, a Rochester resident and father of twin boys who were close to Chloe, has participated in the Cranberry County Kids Ride since its founding. He said that the ride “has all the more meaning in the world because my boys were friends with Chloe.”
He also tried to describe the impact that Chloe had on the community.
“If any child is battling anything, the Rochester community will rally around them — but more so than that with Chloe. Her family lives in Rochester, and has family roots in Rochester,” Bastoni explained.
Chloe’s personal magnetism also played a role.
“If you hadn’t been to the doctor with Chloe, you never would have known that she was sick. She never complained about anything, always looked great, was always running around,” Bastoni said.
The charismatic girl inspired many people, and the Caring for Chloe team accounted for 80 riders out of last year’s 200.
“It would not surprise me in the least if more registered this year,” Goldsmith said.
He explains that the ride makes kids realize that “they don’t have to wait to be an adult to make a difference,” adding that, “once you empower kids, you have no idea where that goes.”
Goldsmith explains that older kids regularly stop on the course’s hill to help younger kids who might be struggling. It seems like exactly the type of gesture that best honors Chloe.
For more information about the Cranberry County Kids Ride, or to register, visit: http://www.kids.pmc.org/cranberrycountry.aspx
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