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One for the Road: Two degrees of separation

By Shadow

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It’s rare that I get to spend a holiday at home, with no big plans, and this Memorial Day I was looking forward to a quiet, peaceful weekend around the house. That is, until I got an invitation from Diva Dawn to join her and her husband John on a trip to New Hope, Pennsylvania, for the 3rd annual Rock and Ride for the Cure. Unlike many other events planned for Memorial Day weekend, this one wasn’t in honor of veterans, and I generally don’t partake in any big celebrations on what was intended as a solemn day of remembrance for veterans that died while serving our country. I prefer to remember and honor my parents, both of whom had active roles in World War II, and those that have passed, in more private ways.

Yet Rock and Ride for the Cure was a worthy cause; the ride was a fundraiser in memory of Bruce Panfil, a customer of Brian’s Harley-Davidson in Langhorne and member of Bucks County H.O.G. And as part of this event, our friend Jasmine Cain was part of the musical entertainment tapped for the after party. She doesn’t make it to the Northeast often, and it’s always a blast to see her onstage.

The ride started at Brian’s H-D, and although a number of the state’s famed covered bridges were included along the route, our time was limited so we decided to just meet everyone at Havana where the ride would end. Havana, right on Main Street, is a popular bar/restaurant known for its live talent. Plus, hanging out in New Hope is always a treat for me, and it’s a favorite destination for motorcyclists despite the love/hate relationship between riders and the borough (parking wars raged for several years). The small town on the banks of the Delaware has a population of only about 2,500, but visitors come from miles around to shop, dine and drink at the quaint shops and eateries.

We met up with Jasmine and took a fast-paced tour of some of the funkier shops—she calls it “power shopping”—and got back to Havana in time to see the last half of the first band’s set. Everlit consists of five young guys who brought some really great energy and talent to the stage, and shortly thereafter, Jasmine and her band got up there for an extended set consisting of songs from their latest album, past hits and more. Both bands killed it, and the crowd loved it, along with the free buffet and drink specials.

At the close of the event, we headed back to New Jersey. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the text from my cousin who lives in Bucks County: “Hi! I saw that you were in New Hope today for Ride for the Cure. My good friend Bruce Panfil who passed away from pancreatic cancer was being celebrated today. He lived in New Hope and Havana was his favorite place.” Wow. I remember a few years ago when my cousin told me about his good friend who was going through treatments for cancer, and how devastated his family and friends were, but I didn’t put two and two together until the text came.

And then I learned that two of the guys from Everlit, Ryan Panfil on vocals and Jordan Panfil on guitar, are Bruce’s nephews. A few days after the event, Jordan told me that the first Ride for the Cure was held in 2014, just a few months after Bruce had been diagnosed. The fundraiser was actually Bruce’s idea, to let people know what he was going through and to get some help from the community. With the assistance of his brother Roger, sister Debbie, girlfriend Sharon, nephews Ryan and Jordan, and others, the first two rides took place to help Bruce and his family with medical costs. Even though Bruce was undergoing treatment, he, along with Roger, rode in both events. And this year, Ryan and Jordan, both relatively new riders, went on the ride as well. In fact, Ryan announced onstage that this was their first group ride. I didn’t understand the significance of that statement until later when I learned of the connection.

Later in 2014, months after Bruce was diagnosed, Ryan and Jordan and a few other musicians formed Everlit, and Bruce was one of their biggest supporters. Sadly, just before he would have turned 55, Bruce passed away in December 2015, but his family and friends were determined to keep the Ride for the Cure alive, continuing his legacy. Just before this year’s ride took place, RARFTC was formalized with the creation of a 501(c)(3) with the intention that event proceeds would be donated to the Pancreas Center at the Columbia University Medical Center. Medical professionals early on had told Bruce he only had six months to live, with the Pancreas Center not only giving him hope, but gifting him with another year and a half longer on this earth. Even if he couldn’t beat the big “C” he wanted a cure to be found for others.

Jordan tells me that next year they’d like the ride to benefit someone from the Bucks County area who is suffering from a serious illness. It seems that this would have been what Bruce wanted. According to his friends and family, that’s the kind of guy he was—generous, loving and caring.

So what started out as a fun 60-mile jaunt to a small town to see a friend perform turned into two degrees of separation between me and the guy for whom this ride was being held. But isn’t that personal connection what draws all of us together?

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