The Longfellow Club
Boston Post Road
Sponsored by the ALS Association MA Chapter
The 16th Positive Spin for ALS kicked into gear on Sunday, June 13. One hundred fifty seven participants biked from the Longfellow Club in Wayland through some of the most picturesque countryside in eastern Massachusetts.
They rode for their fathers, their mothers, their sons, daughters, neighbors, friends, colleagues - all of whom are among the 5600 people diagnosed every year with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS .
For the riders, pedaling one of the 10, 25, 50, or 70 mile courses today was a personal salvo against the cruelest of all neurological diseases.
ALS, also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive, fatal disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control functions such as walking, talking and breathing. Symptoms include muscular wasting, loss of speech, and eventual total paralysis. Identified in 1869, there is no known cure for it...yet.
The ride raised money to support research for a cure for the disease and for the ALS Massachusetts Chapter’s outstanding programs for patients and caregivers in the region.
The special wrinkle in this year’s event was the arrival of a sea of riders in orange T shirts. The fifty Orange shirted men and women all had a connection with the late Pete “Wheels” Farricker, who died of the disease ten years ago.
Pete Farricker was an Ultimate Frisbee legend whose fame crested on his athletic ability, big-hearted nature, goofy sense of humor, and life-affirming personality. His fierce competitive spirit at the highest level of the sport was matched to a sense of fair play that is the bedrock of this highly charged, fast paced game.
If the General Mills Company had any sense at all, they would have stuck Pete’s face on their Wheaties Box for a season honoring his membership on National and World Ultimate Frisbee Championship teams.
“We were devastated when Pete emailed us to tell us of his illness in 1999. We were in our late 30s, not really at that time in our life when mortality was in the lexicon,” former teammate Phil Adams said.“We mobilized. We organized a reflection/celebration of Pete's life about 6 weeks before he passed, and from that we launched the Peter Farricker Foundation to do two things. Name Ultimate's “Spirit of the Game” trophy after Pete (kind of like Hockey's Lady Byng trophy) with an endowment to fund it in perpetuity, and raise money for ALS.”
The Pete Farricker Spirit Award is given to the player in the open division of the USA Ultimate's Club Championship Series adjudged to have exhibited personal responsibility, integrity, and fairness combined with a high standard of playing ability.
Phil Adams, one of six members of the board of directors of the Peter Farricker Foundation, has been the spark plug in the foundation’s engine for the past few years, nudging Pete’s friends to ride in the Positive Spin for ALS. Last year, as about 20 former Ultimate Frisbee jocks huddled around the BBQ after riding the 2009 PSALS, Adams nudged a little harder.
"This is great that we can get people to ride in Wayland, but can't we also have our buddies who can't make it to Wayland ride "with us" wherever they are? Can't Fin ride in Boulder, and Jimmy in San Diego and Gus in Jacksonville, and Kent in Park City?" Adams asked.
Never underestimate this group. Pete Farricker was family to these guys who competed with him when they were twenty something and invincible. Now the guys are family men, businessmen, and immersed in their disparate communities. They’re older, have lost their fleetness afoot but not their fond memories of a man who played hard and made the game fun. They showed up with their checkbooks.
Sunday afternoon, Phil Adams presented a check for $10,000 to ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter President Debra Sharpe.
Photo: T.J. Reilly, Partner at New York Life Insurance Company, Providence, RI and Chairman of the ALS Association MA Chapter Board of Directors; Myke Farricker, key event organizer and co-owner of the Longfellow Clubs; Phil Adams, Chairman of the Peter Farricker Foundation; Debra Sharpe, President of the ALS Association MA Chapter; Paul Tamburello, founder of A Positive Spin for ALS
Pete’s former team mates are spread across the country. The Positive Spin for ALS in Wayland wasn’t the only place they gathered to raise money and honor his memory. Pete Farricker “Spirit Of The Game” events took place all across the land. Ten years after his death, Pete’s shadow has stretched way beyond the 70 by 40 yard dimensions of the regulation Frisbee field.
“We had over 125 people in 19 locations riding or mountain biking or playing ultimate or walking or playing disc golf or doing Yoga - in the name of Pete… and Ultimate's "spirit of the game" Adams said.
Transforming grief into energy to find a cure for ALS and to support patients and caregivers was what I had in mind when I founded the Positive Spin for ALS in 1995. Pete Farricker's team mates are putting their own spin on the concept.
Photo: Steve Mooney and Myke Farricker of the Peter Farricker Foundation and Paul Tamburello
Pete’s brother Myke Farricker is co-owner of the Longfellow Clubs in Wayland and Natick. Since 2003, Myke has been on site from dawn to dusk on the day of the Spin. A master at event logistics, he has arranged to have his crew set up tents for registration, medical staffing and food, and cook hundreds of burgers and hot dogs for hungry riders. All done with a smile and trademark Farricker wise-ass humor.The “Wheels” are already in gear for next year. Those orange T shirts will be visible again in 2011. Whether they’re riding in the Positive Spin for ALS in Wayland or creating their own mini events across the country, they’re taking the “Spirit Of The Game” to a higher level.Myke Farricker and veteran volunteers Pat Gill and Donna Cook, who baked 300 cookies for the event.