Franklin’s Jeff Alers Rode PMC In Honor of His Mom
Jeff Alers, shown here with his wife and daughter, began riding the Pan Mass
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Some seven plus years ago, Franklin’s Jeff Alers niece’s husband Kayur Shah was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Scleroderma. The Franklin resident, along with his brother-in-law (Paul O’Brien), decided that it would be an honor to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge in honor of Shah; so, the duo signed up for the two-day ride from Wellesley into Provincetown.
When he learned of the two doing the ride, Shah wanted to have a hashtag and thus BBS (Brown Boy Strong) was born. Shah is of Indian descent and his nick name was brown boy.
Having previously been a runner, Alers had to put that aside when he had to have his hip replaced, so having the PMC now filled that void. However, before he could take part in the country’s largest fundraising event, he had to go out and purchase a bike in which he could grow into over the years. Alers picked out his bike and began preparing for his first PMC by putting in his miles on the bike to get ready for the 192-mile ride.
“In the past, all that I did was basic bike riding, nothing like the event that I was getting myself into mileage wise,” he said. “Paul was a bike rider, so he gave me some advice on preparing and maintaining my body for the ride. It was interesting and definitely a learning experience, but I now find myself much more confident.”
While this was his seventh PMC ride, he remembers that first one like it was yesterday.
“What Billy Starr created and what PMC is all about allows people to help those in need by raising the money and riding. It’s a small way to give back,” Alers said. “Leaving in the earlier morning hours of that first day the overall support was crazy. Seeing the crowds along the routes was overwhelming and very touching; the number of people working the water stands and thanking you for your support was just crazy.”
Following that two-day excursion into the Cape and ending in Provincetown, Alers realized what he had just accomplished and how it grows on you seeing all the volunteers the entire way. He referred the whole experience to that of a cult, where you get sucked in and just can’t leave; although many don’t wish to depart, they prefer staying the course to help defeat Cancer.
“Riding in the PMC is something that you really can’t describe,” he said. “You find yourself doing it once and you’re hooked and continue to do it despite the challenge.”
Unfortunately, Kayur succumbed to his illness and passed away on June 17, 2019, but Alers continued to get on his bike and help those in need. Earlier this year, he lost his mother Caryn Jean Alers to Stage 4 Lung Cancer, but before she left this world, she was able to give her family another three years of memories.
“We were lucky enough to get the same doctor (Oncologist Dr. Kwiatkowski or Dr K for short), who had worked with Kayur, for my mom,” Alers said, “If not for him and Dana Farber, we wouldn’t have had my mother for those extra three years. Riding the PMC is my way of giving back to all the support Kayur and my Mom received. Unfortunately, everyone is touched by cancer in some way; that is why I ride.”
In addition to his caring and riding in the PMC, the BBS has pulled in a phenomenal $279,000 in donations over the first six years, not too bad for such a small organization that only has a handful of riders. Alers contributes it all to his unique fund-raising abilities.
“With family and friends, it’s tough for them to continue year after year to continue giving to the same cause, so I had to come up with a creative way to hit that minimum amount each year,” he said. “I started going after the corporate sponsorships. It’s not only a write-off for them, but it goes to a good cause, and you don’t feel as bad asking them for a donation each year as you would your friends and family.”
The Franklin rider says he will continue to hop onto his bike the first weekend of every August and support Dana Farber for as long as his 56-year-old body will allow him to do so.
“This is only my seventh ride, but you look around at the people who have been doing it for so much longer and are a lot older than myself and you realize that this is something I must continue to do for the people who need the help,” Alers said. “I am neither a doctor nor a scientist that can come up with a cure for these diseases, but I can ride in the PMC every year as my way of doing my part in the fight against cancer.”