North Dartmouth resident readies for Pan-Mass Challenge

By Angie Hilsman | Jul 31, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Danielle MacDonald shares her story.

Danielle MacDonald vividly remembers her grandmother's massive bell collection.

"This one she gave me had a little astronaut [on it]. It was kind of crazy she gave away one of her bells," said the 21-year-old, North Dartmouth resident.

Alongside the bell, MacDonald is reminded of her grandmother daily by the coordinates tattooed on her foot. The markings lead to a memorial bench for her grandmother, Kathleen, on Martha's Vineyard. Kathleen passed in October 2009, after a battle with lung cancer.

The loss has since had a big impact on MacDonald and her family.

"She always brought everyone together," she said, remembering the family's summertime gatherings on the island that have since gone to the wayside. "She was always so strong."

A few more recent, cancer-related losses have spurred MacDonald into action. This month, she will participate in her first Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day bike-a-thon for cancer research.

MacDonald plans to pedal 27 miles on August 6, and raise $1,200 by October 1.

"It affects my family so much, so anything I can do to help, I want to try," she said above tearing eyes. "My cousin's breast cancer just came back too, so anything."

MacDonald's father, Paul, has a history of involvement with the event. Biking 27 miles would be a new feat for the Westfield State University student, but she plans to eventually follow in her dad's footsteps to complete the full two-day ride.

Pan-Mass Challenge routes vary from 27 miles to nearly 200 miles.

As a lifeguard at Horseneck Beach, MacDonald runs with her team daily to warm up. She's also been attending spin classes to prepare.

"I've got biking shorts, with the pad in the butt. They feel so weird. I walk like a duck," MacDonald said. "My mindset is that 'There's people in worse pain.' I'm doing it for the cancer research."

She plans to sport new markings on race day, writing all the names of people she's biking for on her body. MacDonald will be cheered on by her father, and expects he'll be waiting at the finish line with two beers, she laughed.

MacDonald has raised $1,000 so far. Support her cause at

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