“During Jerry’s battle with cancer, there were a lot of ups and downs,” Jim Margherio remembers. “But he stayed positive throughout the whole thing. He joked about it, he was always a jokester. We loved to pull pranks on people at work, things like that. I think towards the end, he knew it was going to take him. It was hard, you just feel completely helpless.”
In October of 2020, Jim Margherio lost his close friend and coworker, Jerry, to a two-year-long battle with throat cancer. Though Jim is no stranger to cancer, his mother passed away when he was 13 to pancreatic cancer and his father is a two-time survivor, the loss of his friend was devastating.
One night, not long after Jerry passed away, Jim was scrolling through Facebook when he came upon an advertisement for the Pan-Florida Challenge. He and his wife, Shelly, were relatively new to cycling, taking it up in recent years as a form of exercise on their weight loss journey. However, the love for cycling had grown larger than just as a means of exercise. For Jim, it became an outlet and form of relaxation, especially after Jerry passed away.
“Back 10 or 15 years ago, Jerry and I talked a lot about bike parts and things like that,” remembers Jim. “When I got more seriously involved in cycling, I talked to him a lot about getting my 100-mile ride, and how I kept pushing myself to get there. I would make it 70 miles, 80 miles and then my legs would give out. So, when I came across the Pan-Florida Challenge, I thought this is it. It’s perfect. I will get my 100-mile ride for Jerry.”
The Pan-Florida Challenge Cancer Ride brings together cyclists from all walks of life to accomplish one goal – fight cancer. This year, the ride will be held on March 26 and 27, with starting lines in both Tampa and Fort Myers. With routes ranging from 10 to 200 miles, there is something for every rider who hopes to make a difference for those who are fighting, have fought or have been touched by the disease that affects millions every year.
Every dollar raised goes directly to the Pan-Florida Challenge’s mission to fund cancer prevention research at Moffitt Cancer Center, sponsor education programs, and provide nutritious, cancer fighting weekend backpack meals (PFC Power Packs) to hungry children.
Jim and Shelly set out to accomplish the bucket list century ride. Though they lived over a thousand miles away in Illinois, nothing could get in the way of Jim and his 100-mile goal. They packed up their bikes and car and set out on a road trip last March, but not before greatly surpassing their fundraising goal, raising more than $2,000.
However, before they left for Florida, Jim experienced an unfortunate knee injury. His doctor advised that he not participate in the ride as the pain would be debilitating, but Jim was determined to make it to Florida and ride for Jerry.
“I wasn’t going to stop,” Jim said. “Hopefully, Jerry was going to be there to push me through it.”
Jim made it to mile 50 before the pain became unbearable, and he had no choice but to stop. For his last two miles, Jim unclipped his right foot and pedaled with only one leg. He was devastated, but now, he is more motivated than ever to complete his 100-mile ride with Jerry by his side and in his heart the entire way.
“He was a real, true friend and he helped me get through some really hard times in my life. It was a great friendship, and I am really sad that I lost him,” said Jim. “I just want to make him proud.”
Pedal & Fight Cancer. Join Jim and hundreds of other passionate cyclists in the 2022 Cancer Ride. Every dollar raised by cyclists who are participating in the annual Cancer Ride goes directly to fighting cancer and providing hungry kids nutritious foods to eat over the weekend. To learn more about the Pan-Florida Challenge and to register for this year’s ride, please visit https://panfloridachallenge.org/ride-overview/.