Spoke can – Winthrop teacher prepares for the grueling Pan-Mass Challenge

When Andrea Gray returns to the Gorman/Fort Banks School next month, she’ll have some interesting stories to tell to both her colleagues and her kindergarten students.

Gray will be able to converse about what it was like to ride a bicycle across the state for 163 miles in two days, and join 5,000 cyclists in raising millions of dollars for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to continue its research and treatment for cancer.

Gray, 25, is currently in training for the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual bike-a-thon and the largest fundraiser for a charity in the country. The 31st annual event is set for August 7 and 8.

Gray, daughter of Danny and Janis Gray, is a well-known Winthrop resident. A Winthrop High School Class of 2003 graduate, she was a talented actor for the late Neil Shapiro’s Winthrop High Drama Society troupe that advanced to the state finals of the Boston Globe Drama Festival. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Salem State College and is pursuing her Master’s degree in that field at SSC. She is beginning her fourth year as a kindergarten teacher at the Gorman/Fort Banks School.

Much of her extra-curricular focus this summer has been on training for the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Last year, she participated in the one-day 84-mile PMC ride from Wellesley to Bourne.

“It was so inspiring to see all the cancer survivors holding signs along the way that I was hooked and had to do the second day this year,” said Gray, who raised $3,200 for the cause last year.

Gray had never been on a road bicycle prior to April, 2009. Her boyfriend, Jason Davis, who will also participate in the PMC with his company, Systems Evolution Inc. (SEI), said her determination to ride in the event and her dedication to helping children are admirable qualities.

“Andrea decided to get involved with the PMC before she even had a bike,” said Davis. “She is a caring person with a huge soft spot for kids. As soon as she saw a picture of a little girl holding a sign that said, Thank you for saving my Mom’s life,’ she was hooked.”

Gray will bike ride from Wellesley to Bourne on the first day of the Pan-Mass Challenge. After a night’s rest at Mass Maritime in Buzzards Bay, she will resume her ride early the next morning and continue on the trek to Provincetown.

The 5-foot-5-inch, 125-pound athlete has been working on her endurance and conditioning for the past several months. “I did personal training with Liz Della Porta at Fit For Life boot camp in Winthrop,” said Gray. “I also took cycling classes with Marie Hamilton at RPI in Winthrop.”

As Gray continues preparations for the 163-mile journey, she remains appreciative to her boyfriend for getting her involved in such a worthwhile endeavor.

“Jason’s company had a team in the PMC last year and that’s how I heard about it,” said Gray. “I always wanted to do some type of non-profit work. When I found out that they were advocates for the Jimmy Fund and that 50 percent of their funding comes from the Pan-Mass Challenge, I thought that was a great cause to be involved with. Also, people in my family, especially my grandmother [Ann Burridge], are cancer survivors. I’ll wear the names of family and friends on the back of my bicycle jersey.”

Winthrop residents wishing to make a donation to Andrea Gray can go to http://cyclingagainstcancer.com and click the donate tab, or they can send a check made out to PMC/Jimmy Fund to: Andrea Gray, 43 Cliff Ave., Winthrop, Mass. 02152.

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