Like many Dana-Farber Cancer Institute supporters, Fred Georgoulis walked 26.2 miles on Sunday in the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk presented by Hyundai. It was Georgoulis’ second trip in recent months down this course; his last was on a classic Harley Davidson FXRS.
Georgoulis is the creator and director of the Boston Motorcycle Marathon Ride, one of the Jimmy Fund’s newest events. For the past two summers, on the second Sunday in August, he and more than 1,000 other motorcycle enthusiasts have ridden the legendary Hopkinton-to-Copley Square route of the Boston Marathon® , raising money for research and patient care at Dana-Farber in the process.
“The idea came to me after I did the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk in 2012, and then did the Halloween Witch Ride [for motorcycles] in Salem few weeks later,” says Georgoulis, a North Andover, Mass., retiree and father of four whose wife, Denise, is a breast cancer survivor. “I remember thinking, ‘Why can’t we do the marathon route on our bikes for the Jimmy Fund?’ How cool would it be to cruise down Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street with people cheering for Dana-Farber?”
He asked his friends who rode, and while some were skeptical if he could pull it off, others thought it was a great idea. Then he called the Jimmy Fund, and they were supportive as well.
“During the course of the year we work with hundreds of individuals who conduct events on behalf of the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber, resulting in millions of dollars being raised,” says Brenda Goodell, director, Special Events at the Jimmy Fund. “They range anywhere from fishing tournaments to events like Fred’s. His motorcycle ride is unique and attracts so many participants – we are extremely grateful for his efforts.”
Although Georgoulis jokes that a career in the automotive industry did not prepare him for the job, he was soon knocking on the doors of North Andover businesses and police departments throughout New England to get logistical and other support. “I did all my visits in person, so people could look in my eyes and see how serious I was,” Georgoulis says. A Hopkinton company donated its huge parking lot as a starting point, and threw in food and portable restroom facilities, as well.
Aided by fellow volunteers Karen Kimball and Kevin Nee, Georgoulis worried that the inaugural ride, scheduled for August 11, 2013, might be postponed after the Boston Marathon bombings of that April. In the end it became even more powerful. Georgoulis read that the Jimmy Fund was the favorite charity of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, and approached the MIT Police Department and Collier’s family about doing the ride in his memory – including laying a wreath at the Cambridge location where he was killed by the accused bombers. They agreed.
“My son Nicholas is a police officer, and is 26 – the same age Sean was when he was killed,” says Georgoulis. “I was already honoring my wife and all those with cancer through the ride. By honoring Sean’s memory, I could also honor my son and other officers.”
The 2013 ride went off as planned, with more than 250 police officers and more than 1,000 motorcyclists – many of them cancer survivors — taking part. This year the ranks grew to more than 1,300, and Georgoulis is already planning his 2015 fundraising ride for the Jimmy Fund. The skeptics have disappeared.