Ascending Athlete #1: Robin Saitz
I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know.
One of the most profound and inspirational ways individuals can use athletics to drive themselves to new levels and at the same time impact the lives of others is through event fundraising. There are millions of people worldwide who suffer from debilitating diseases that limit or eliminate their ability to compete in athletics and impact the quality of their lives. Fortunately, there are millions more who seek to help them by raising money for research, raising awareness and most importantly, demonstrating that they care. One of those people is Robin Saitz. I met Robin a few months back through the social media circles in the Boston area. Robin is the type of person who is full of enthusiasm, which rubs off on the people around her. Her enthusiasm tends to get people to join in her in various efforts, one of which is the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money for cancer research and treatment at the Dana Farber Institute through an annual bike-a-thon across the state of Massachusetts. Since 1980, thousands of riders have raised nearly $240 million dollars by riding a 190 mile, two-day bike course across the state, as well as shorter distance options. This year’s event takes place August 1st and 2nd, 2009.
Robin will riding her 16th PMC, and serving as the captain of her company’s team, PTC. You can learn more about Robin’s efforts and help sponsor this great event at her website (www.pmc.org/profile/RS0022).
Robin was gracious enough to answer some questions and share some of her thoughts on what makes her an Ascending Athlete:
Why are athletics important to you?
Growing up, athletics were not important to me at all. It took going to college and gaining the “freshman 15” that made me take a look in the mirror and decide I needed to exercise. So I started walking….a lot. The summer after freshman year I walked everyday about 10 miles and I joined a gym (a dive, I might add, where I ultimately met my husband) and started lifting and doing the stairs and even running. I really got into great shape and felt great when I worked out. I have been working out ever since. Now I have bad day if DON’T work out, that’s how addicted I’ve become to the aerobic activity and the endorphins.
Why did you decide to ride the PMC?
As I said, I met my husband at the gym and I quickly figured out if I was going to keep up with him I’d have to pick up cycling. We knew people who had done the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) and loved it, but honestly, we were a little intimidated by the fundraising, then the minimum was $900, and I was intimidated by the distance. But I got over both hurdles and have been riding the PMC for 16 years. The first year we were motivated more by cycling the distance than the actual cause. But once you ride the PMC, you realize it has nothing to do with cycling and it’s ALL about raising money for life-saving cancer research.
Are you riding in the name or memory of someone you know who has had cancer?
Over the years we have dedicated our ride and fundraising efforts to many people in our lives: Monica Weinstein, who lost her battle to breast cancer at the young age of 40 years old; Carl Ockerbloom and Cheun Lee, both colleagues from PTC who succumbed to cancer at young ages; Janet Baldassarre, who has successfully beat cancer not once, but twice; Flo Plotkin, my aunt who lost her battle to lung cancer; and this year we are dedicating our fundraising to the doctors, nurses, and technicians of the Dana Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Care Center, who responded quickly to a recent scare we had with our 13-year old son. Fortunately, it turned out not to be cancer, but this team of specialists assembled quickly, gathered information in a non-invasive way, investigated his case thoroughly, and, in a matter of 5 days (which felt like a long time to us) determined that he did not have cancer.
What are some future goal(s) or event(s) you’d like to participate in?
I am eager to see my children, now 11 and 13, ride in the PMC. To date they have organized an annual lemonade stand/bake sale to help us with our fundraising and they have participated in the PMC Kids ride in Newton. But I really look forward to the day, maybe in the next couple of years, where they can join me and my husband in this life-changing event.
Tell us about one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting
While this is my 16th year riding the PMC, this is the 8th year I have captained a team from my company, PTC. This is especially rewarding to me because we are able to involve the entire PTC community in the team, from jersey design, to volunteers at the event, to fundraising. We have tremendous support from our executives, some who have joined us on the ride, others who have donated fun items to our auction (i.e. parking spaces for month, golf with the CEO), and have sponsored the team. Team PTC has raised over $640K for life-saving cancer research in memory of our colleagues and at the same time we have created a meaningful connection around an important cause for our employees.
Thanks to Robin for her inspiring story– she’s truly an Ascending Athlete!