Sunday, 2 August 2009

Brewster welcomes biker cancer battlers

One of the most spectacular charity events on Cape Cod was seen by Brewster residents last weekend when 5,500 cyclists from 36 states and eight countries rode in the 30th annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to raise more than $30 million for cancer research and treatment at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.

The riders were aiming to bring the PMC’s total Jimmy Fund contribution beyond the $275 million mark.

Connecting athleticism to charitable fundraising was a new idea in 1980 when PMC Founder Billy Starr and 35 of his friends rode across Massachusetts and raised $10,200 for cancer research, writes Jackie Herskovitz. Today, athletic events raise nearly $2 billion each year, funding crucial programs at health and human service organizations across the country. The PMC leads the pack. The most successful athletic fundraising event in the nation, the PMC raises and contributes more than twice the sum of any athletic fundraising event in the country. It is also the most efficient. In 2008, PMC’s contributed 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar directly to the Jimmy Fund.

Brewster town officials this year came up a safety plan that they hoped would make the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge less of a challenge for motorists, using police officers to direct traffic. Last year there were complaints that cyclists were riding sometimes four and five abreast, blocking both lanes of Route 6A, the main road through the town, and there was talk of changing the route.

However an agreement was reached following a meeting between Brewster officials and PMC organizers, with riders being invited to respect police rules that they should ride no more than two abreast, and with warning banners being placed to inform motorists in advance of the event.
It was inevitable that some form of compromise would be reached. The PMC is so respected in cycling and fundraising circles that each year people travel from all over the world to participate. Cyclists choose between seven routes that range from 47 to 190 miles. The camaraderie shared by cyclists, volunteers, and supporters is among the PMC’s greatest attributes. Doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute join their patients as team mates and ride for a unified goal. Nearly 300 PMC cyclists and volunteers are cancer survivors or current patients. Thousands of riders have lost loved ones to the disease. Still more rode in honour of those in treatment.

This weekend, each of the cyclists had committed to raising between $1,000 and $4,200 for the privilege of being a member of the PMC team. Ninety percent of all PMCers, however, exceed the minimum fundraising contribution and one-third raise more than twice the amount required.

This commitment to the fundraising portion of the PMC journey is a testament to riders’ dedication to the cause and their belief in the PMC mission. Hundreds have been members of the PMC family for more than 20 years. The PMC averages an annual 70 percent rider retention rate, and because of the high demand, each January, registration for most routes closes within weeks of opening. From organizing luggage and unloading trucks to cooking meals and manning water stops, 2,800 PMC volunteers fill jobs that are typically paid positions, thus enhancing the event’s efficiency and culture of giving. The PMC is presented by the Red Sox Foundation and . Another 200 companies support the event through donations of goods, services, and money.

The PMC is nationally recognized as a model in fundraising efficiency; it generates half of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and it is Dana-Farber’s largest contributor. “The PMC has made what we do at Dana-Farber possible,” says Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, president of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “When they write the history of how cancer was conquered, the PMC will be in chapter one.”
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