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Beverly To Long Beach, Ind. Bike Ride Yields $55,000 For Pat Mac's Pack

 A group of 89 bike riders left St. Barnabas Parish in Beverly for Long Beach, Ind. at 5:45 a.m. Friday. The third annual ride raised $55,000 for Pat Mac's Pack, which funds pediatric brain tumor research.
Pat's Pedaling Pack
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BEVERLY — The first mile of a roughly six-hour bike ride from Beverly to Long Beach, Ind., might have been the most inspirational part of the journey.

The sendoff for Pat's Pedaling Pack began around 5:45 a.m. Friday from the parking lot of St. Barnabas Parish. After coffee and doughnuts at 10134 S Longwood Drive, the group of 89 riders took a picture in front of a tree planted in honor of Patrick Thomas McNamara.

McNamara, 13, died Oct. 14, 2011, after an 11-year battle with a brain tumor. His father, Thomas McNamara, is among the organizers of the 68-mile ride.

The group photo is followed by a "blessing of the bikes" by the Rev. James Donovan of St. Barnabas. Then, there's a bagpipes and drums performance along with an initial police escort as the riders head south on Longwood Drive.

Leading the pack this year was Anthony Pappalas, 6, of Mount Greenwood and Bradon Wiggins, 12, of suburban Plainfield. Both of the boys are battling brain tumors and stopped after about a mile to slap hands with all of the riders as they headed out on their 100-kilometer journey.

"That is one of the most special parts of the whole day," McNamara said Wednesday.

Bradon Wiggins of suburban Plainfield slapped hands with riders as they embarked on a 68-mile bike ride Friday. The riders left Beverly headed for Long Beach, Ind. [Geri Doherty]

The third annual ride raised a record $55,000 for Pat Mac's Pack. The Beverly-based charity was formed to keep the memory of Patrick Thomas McNamara alive through a series of fundraisers.

Most of the donations are directed at a pediatric brain tumor research project commonly known as the "Dream Team" at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, McNamara said.

"It's amazing that so many people would get together in our son's name for this event," he said. "What an incredible neighborhood this is."

The bike ride itself was conceived by Pat Grant about five years before it became a fundraiser. Grant lives across the street from the McNamaras in Beverly and came to know Patrick and his family well before he the gregarious young boy passed away.

"We are very fortunate to have known him," said Grant, who also owns a house near the lakefront in Long Beach that serves as the finish line.

A group of 89 bike riders left St. Barnabas Parish in Beverly for Long Beach, Ind. at 5:45 a.m. Friday. The 68-mile bike ride raises money for a local charity that remembers Patrick Thomas McNamara, who died Oct. 14, 2011. [Geri Doherty]

In 2012, Grant invited Tom McNamara to join him and a group of his friends for their annual bike ride from Beverly. A couple years later, Grant and his pal Pete Burns decided to turn their friendly pilgrimage into a fundraiser.

The first year, the bike ride raised $26,000 for Pat Mac's Pack. Last year, it raised $49,000, McNamara said.

The first finishers arrived around 11 a.m., while McNamara brought up the rear of the ride. He finished the ride that winds through the South Side into Hammond, Ind. and ends at Grant's house at 1:40 p.m.

Along the way, there are five designated rest stops — all of which are sponsored. There are also a series of post-race parties and a golf outing the next day, which drew 65 people.

Tom McNamara finished the 68-mile bike ride from Beverly to Long Beach in eight hours. The third annual charity event raises money for Pat Mac's Pack. [Geri Doherty]

"We definitely encourage people not to come back" immediately after the race, McNamara said.

The result is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Pat Mac's Pack, which also host a St. Patrick's Day Party just ahead of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade.

McNamara and Grant both believe the field of riders could top 100 people next year. McNamara said the one-way ride does make it a bit tough to get back to the neighborhood. Some riders return home via train on the South Shore Line. Others drop a car off the day before the race.

Still others have homes in the area or camp out with friends who live nearby. Either way, McNamara said the event has quickly become a neighborhood staple.

"Its a very special day. It is moving. It is tremendously emotional for us," McNamara said.

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