Sen. Barry Finegold has done the local charity circuit with the best of them.
He’s walked to combat hunger. He’s run for the homeless. He’s golfed for scholarships.
Basically, if some local event benefits his constituents in his native Andover and surrounding towns, Finegold has probably been there and done that.
But this weekend’s charity event is different. This has nothing to do with public service and handshakes.
This is for his older sister, Joni Finegold-Sachs, who passed away at age 42 from a lengthy, 18-month bout with cancer on July 26, 2012.
This one is personal.
“Joni was the bright one in the family,” Finegold said. “She was in the Foreign Service at age 22, which made her one of the youngest ever. She served the country in some hot spots like Belfast (Northern Ireland) and Bogota (Colombia). She was around armored cars and bombs.
“But most of all, she was a great sister, wife and mother. She was full of life. She was the one always cracking jokes. She was a great person and I miss her dearly. It still is very surreal to me.”
Finegold’s sister lived just outside Washington, D.C., with husband Daniel, and their daughters, Lillian, 12, and Maisey, 7.
A few months after her death, Finegold was talking to his younger sister, Diana, who lives in New York City, about doing something on Joni’s behalf.
The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, which consists of riding 200 miles over two days, seemed like the perfect event in her honor. Since 1980, the PMC has raised $338 million, all of which goes directly to cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This year’s installment is set for Saturday and Sunday.
“I had always seen the race from afar and heard about people I know participating,” Finegold said. “Your immediate reaction after losing someone you love is, ‘What can I do?’ We realized this race benefits Dana-Farber, which was very helpful to my sister.”