June 24, 2018
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Motorcyclists gear up for cancer awareness ride to help Millinocket vet

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MILLINOCKET, Maine — People can accept Rick Cyr Jr. shaving his head, but nobody wants his fiancee cutting off her hair. Her mother is more understanding.

Jessica Pelkey “came into this world bald,” Lisa Hayes-Taylor said Monday. “We might as well make her bald again.”

Cyr and Jessica Pelkey are among the motorcyclists from the Donald V. Henry American Legion Post 80 of Millinocket who might shave their heads as part of of the fourth annual “Bing’s Cancer Awareness Ride” on Saturday.

The ride will raise money to help fellow rider Doug Boutaugh pay medical expenses associated with mantle cell lymphoma treatments at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The Vietnam War veteran was diagnosed last fall, Pelkey said.

The 145-mile ride starts with registration at 8 a.m. and hits the road at 10:30 a.m. All vehicles are welcome. A barbeque at the legion, 970 Central St., will follow the ride’s end. Group members will auction off their hair to raise money, Cyr said.

The event honors James “Bing” Popkowski of Grindstone and helps cancer victims partly because organizers believe that Popkowski’s brain cancer helped drive the U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant to his death.

A VA patient honorably discharged because of his illness, Popkowski threatened a Togus police officer and two game wardens and was shot near the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center on July 8, 2010. Popkowski was distraught at what he felt was insufficient medical care and had threatened the center’s medical director, police have said.

The Maine attorney general’s office cleared the officers involved. Several weapons and several hundred rounds of ammunition were found near Popkowski and in the 37-year-old man’s truck, the report states.

Popkowski was a well-liked man who helped people despite cancer, his family and friends have said. Boutaugh is a disabled U.S. Navy veteran and a lifelong musician from Millinocket.

“He has done so much for so many people and we want to give back to him,” Pelkey said. “He is amazing. He wants to be around people as much as possible when he is feeling great. He always has a smile on his face.”

Pelkey hopes for more than 100 riders. Group rides have raised more than $5,000. Anyone interested in donating can visit the legion or call 447-0551.

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