EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 2, 2013

Sen. Finegold in Pan-Mass Challenge for late sister

Sen. Barry Finegold has walked to combat hunger. He’s run for the homeless. He’s golfed for scholarships.

But this weekend’s charity event is personal.

This is for his older sister, Joni Finegold-Sachs, who died at age 42 after an 18-month bout with cancer on July 26, 2012.

“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.”

Of course, there was one minor issue, at least for Finegold.

He hadn’t been on a bike since he was about 10 years old.

“I had the black Huffy Bike like all of the other kids,,” he said. “But since then, I had not been on a bike. I’m not kidding.”

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