DANVERS — Beverly Bicycles owner Bill Kerr, of Hamilton, has almost always fielded a team in the A Reason to Ride charity cycling event that raises money for cancer research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The ride begins at 75 Sylvan St. Sunday morning and features 10-, 25- and 50-mile routes around the North Shore. The 50-mile loop travels through Wenham, Hamilton, Essex, Manchester, Gloucester, Ipswich, Georgetown and Topsfield before returning to Danvers.
It would appear to be a natural fit for a local bike shop owner to sponsor a local charity ride. But for Kerr, a cancer survivor, it's much deeper than that.
Kerr's involvement with the ride dates to shortly after he opened the bike shop at 132 Dodge St. in March 2009.
Kerr, 67, said he had suffered a heart attack in 2008 while working in operations for Applied Materials, a California-based high-tech company that provides equipment, software and services to the semiconductor industry.
He left the company in 2009 and opened the bike shop in his retirement. It's a shop where you can buy a Fuji, have your bike fixed, or sit on the large sofa in front and sip a cup of coffee.
Kerr said the shop has built a following among people from different backgrounds. Its motto is, "Bicycles for the rest of us."
"The community we are in North Beverly, it's just great," he said.
The same year the shop opened, Kerr met Tom DesFosses of Peabody, an avid cyclist who started the charity ride in 2008 after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer a few years earlier.
DesFosses overcame long odds to beat the cancer, and he credited his treatment at the hands of Dr. Eric Wong for his survival. Today, the ride benefits Wong's Brain Tumor Fund and cancer research at Beth Israel.
Kerr said he and DesFosses, who is in his 70s, hit it off immediately. Like Kerr, DesFosses has an engineering background — he's retired from General Electric — so they had something in common.
"Tom and Judy are wonderful people," Kerr said, mentioning DesFosses' wife, Judy, who helps plan the ride each year.
Kerr said the shop's team in the ride once reached up to 30 people.
Roughly four years ago, DesFosses' mission to fund cancer research became a personal one for Kerr — he was diagnosed with advanced prostrate cancer, which required surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. He went from a strong, powerful rider who was proud of his physical abilities, to a guy who could barely get out of bed.
But Kerr said the illness, and his journey back from it, was "actually a blessing." It gave him a new appreciation for life and for things often taken for granted.
"We are incredibly blessed," Kerr said. "I think it's why Tom and I are incredibly close."
Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.
If you go
What: The 12th annual A Reason to Ride bike-a-thon and 5K walk
When: Sunday, Sept. 8
Where: 75 Sylvan St., Danvers
Start times: 50-mile ride, 8:30 a.m.; 25-mile ride, 9:30 a.m.; 10-mile ride, 10:30 a.m.; and 5K walk, 10:45 a.m.
Registration fees: $75 adults, $25 children, $150 families.
Fuddruckers barbecue: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information and to register, go to areasontoride.com.