Ed Aquino, like practically everyone else, knew people who knew people - loved ones, friends, distant relatives, coworkers - whose lives had been affected by cancer.

Ed Aquino, like practically everyone else, knew people who knew people - loved ones, friends, distant relatives, coworkers - whose lives had been affected by cancer.

Then it hit much nearer and dearer in the Grove City man's life: His mother, a registered nurse, detected a lump in her breast. Carmen Aquino, now 72, had a lumpectomy right away, followed by chemotherapy. She's been in remission for three years.

In the wake of his mother's brush with breast cancer, Ed Aquino felt moved to do something.

"To me, it was just one of those things where I felt a need or a calling," he said.

An avid bicyclist, Aquino decided to put his physical fitness to the test and participate in the Pan Ohio Hope Ride, a grueling, 328-mile, four-day trek from Cleveland to Cincinnati, with shorter courses available, and serves as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge program.

Hope Lodges, of which there are 27 in 18 states, provide free accommodations for cancer patients and their families in a homelike setting near treatment facilities. Ohio currently has two Hope Lodges, one each in Cleveland and Cincinnati, but Aquino hopes money raised through the Pan Ohio Hope Ride will one day enable the American Cancer Society to establish one in Columbus.

Currently, the society provides free lodging in central Ohio for cancer patients and family members through the Hotel Guest Room Program.

Ed Aquino, 45, was born and grew up in New York City. He was in the U.S. Army for a time, and thought of making a career of it as a military policeman, but decided to get out after the first Desert Storm. As he was preparing to depart the military, Aquino got to know another soon-to-be ex-MP from Ohio, and the two hatched a plan to go into business together, opening a gym in Lima.

But before that happened, Aquino's friend got a job with the local police department and Aquino parlayed his military experience into a position with the Allen County Sheriff's Office. From there he moved over to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in 1995, first in Lima, then in Marion and now he's a third-shift captain at the Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient.

Aquino is also a real estate agent. He and his wife, Loredana, bought a home in Grove City two years ago.

When Ed Aquino first heard about the Pan Ohio Hope Ride, it seemed like a fine fit for his desire to help other cancer sufferers and survivors, and his own fitness regimen.

"I've always been a cyclist, even when I was living in the Bronx," he said.

The first ride in 2007 drew 64 participants. Last year's ride, the first for Aquino, had 91 riders. Aquino, who joined the Pan Ohio Hope Ride committee after his first year of participating, said so far 125 riders are signed up for the 2009 event, which runs from July 30 to Aug. 2.

In preparation for the long ride last summer, Aquino increased his running, weightlifting and bicycling. He took longer rides and sought out as much in the way of hills as he could find. Still Aquino admitted, the first leg of the journey from Cleveland to Wooster proved especially tiresome for legs more accustomed to the gentle roll central Ohio's landscape has to offer.

"It wasn't as bad as I really expected, but it's definitely very challenging," Aquino said.

People who lined the course, especially cancer survivors, provided all the inspiration needed to forge on, he added.

Participating cyclists pay a registration free of $150.

Anyone interested in participating as an individual, starting a team, joining a team or donating to the Pan Ohio Hope Ride may do so online at www.panohiohoperide.org.

More information is also available by calling Aquino at 214-8620.