Bridesmaid gifted first dance with terminally ill dad bikes race in his memory

REHOBOTH, Mass. (WPRI) — A Rehoboth woman, whose story of a gifted father-daughter dance made national headlines, is now raising money for cancer research while mourning the death of her father.

Last month, Eyewitness News brought you the story of a local bride who gifted her father-daughter dance to her best friend and bridesmaid, Jessica Otto, and her terminally ill father.

“It’s incredible to see the amount of support we have from people that we don’t even know,” Otto said.

Eyewitness News has since learned that Otto’s father, Peter Otto, passed away on July 31. Just five days later, Jessica Otto biked 192 miles in the Pan-Mass Challenge.

“So many people were looking at me like, ‘I can’t believe that you’re even out here pedaling now,'” Jessica Otto said. “But I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Jessica Otto said the camaraderie during the race helped her cope with her father’s recent death.

“I was going to cry anywhere I was going to be, so why not cry with a bunch of people who know what I’m going through and can help me through it, and while doing something in memory of my dad that he really would have loved,” Jessica Otto said.

Jessica Otto and her father had participated in several Pan-Mass Challenge rides together. It was one of their many bonds; biking together while raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — where Peter Otto was a patient.

“They gave us so many more years with him,” Jessica Otto said. “He got to see us graduate high school, he got to see us fall in love, he got to see my sister graduate from Johnson & Wales. He got to be around for so many more things that he wouldn’t have seen if he had passed away the first time he got cancer 15 years ago.”

Before this year, Jessica Otto and her father had collectively raised $60,000 together. This year, Jessica Otto is nearing a personal record of $20,000.

Fundraising continues until Oct. 1. Visit Jessica Otto’s Pan-Mass Challenge profile to help her reach her goal.