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A Fitting Tribute: The Prouty Aims To Raise $2.75 Million

May 14, 2013
Hanover, NH

Founded in 1982 by four nurses who pedaled their way across the White Mountains of New Hampshire to raise money and awareness for cancer research, The Prouty is now such a popular rite of summer that organizers have set a goal of crossing the $20 million threshold in its cumulative 32-year history. It's a fitting tribute to Audrey Prouty, the patient who inspired the nurses to raise funds.

The Prouty, which takes place July 12-13 in Hanover, N.H., includes one-day bicycling events ranging from 20 to 100 miles, a two-day 200 mile Prouty Ultimate ride, multiple walk routes, rowing on the nearby Connecticut River and new this year—the ability to golf 18 holes. A longtime community tradition, the event attracts some 5,000 participants and 1,000+ volunteers to a town of 13,000 (when Dartmouth students are in town).

In 1982, the nurses raised $4,000. Last year, The Prouty celebrated its 31st birthday by setting a new one-year fundraising record of $2.6 million. This brought total fundraising to $17.3 million since 1982. For 2013, organizers have set a goal of $2.75 million.

"One lesson of the Prouty is that if you give people a chance to do something about cancer, they'll do amazing things," said The Prouty's Honorary Chair, Doug Lewis from Pomfret, Vt., whose own path has included making the 200 mile, two-day ride a 300 mile, three day ride. In 2013, this passionate Prouty devotee and his friends are unofficially adding even more days and more routes to show their determination to knock this disease down a peg.

The Prouty relies on just this kind of passion to reach its goals every year. More than 100 corporate sponsors and the hundreds of volunteers help to keep costs low so that nearly 87 cents of every dollar raised goes to either cancer research or cancer patient support services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Hanover.

For cancer researchers competing for research grants, this infusion of locally-raised dollars can provide crucial seed funding to get a new idea off the ground. In fact, in one recent five-year period, event organizer Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center found that $1.2 million of Prouty Funds invested in local research yielded another $20 million in federal grants. For all the growth and diversification, one of the original four nurses says the Prouty has stayed true to the spirit that led a group of friends to do something to honor the memory of an extraordinary patient.

Audrey Prouty died in 1982 after meeting her diagnosis of ovarian cancer with inspiring strength and dignity.

"Everyone knows an Audrey Prouty," says Prouty co-founder Patty Carney. "Everyone knows someone whose battle with cancer makes you want to do something to honor them and to help in the fight against cancer."

A life-changing event

Carney has herself experienced The Prouty's multiplier effect. Inspired by Prouty's battle with cancer, Carney earned her PhD and is now a researcher on the faculty of Oregon Health & Science University, where she has led or contributed to more than 170 scientific publications and receives her own funding from federal agencies.

"The direction my life has taken over the last 30 years is in so many ways connected to The Prouty," says Carney.

Carney remains close to the event, along with another of the original four nurses, Cindy Spicer. Still a nurse in Littleton, New Hampshire, Spicer, after many years away discovered that The Prouty was still happening and began to ride the event again. The third of the four founders, Heather Klassen, is working as a nurse overseas with a non-government organization and for the first time since 1983 will be biking The Prouty this summer. Notes Klassen, "I was absolutely stunned to see how what we started 32 years ago has grown and blossomed. It is humbling to see what a difference we are now able to make because of The Prouty." (The fourth nurse, Cathy Hallesy, has passed away.)

Another person changed by the event is Lewis, the event's honorary chair—a fifth-generation resident of Pomfret, Vermont. Lewis rode his first Prouty in 2005 to honor his brother, Dale, who died of cancer later that year at age 41. In 2006, Doug Lewis founded "Team Hoss" in memory of Dale, making both the Prouty and the Friends of Norris Cotton major parts of his life. In 2012, Team Hoss raised more than $90,000, bringing their cumulative total to more than $250,000.

It takes a community to fight cancer

Mark Israel, MD, leads the fight against cancer as the director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center. "It takes many researchers, providers, nurses, and, of course, patients to develop ever better ways to treat and prevent.  The Prouty depends on so many people, and in return, the money raised by The Prouty touches so many people. Truly, The Prouty is a community effort."

For more information about The 2013 Prouty & Prouty Ultimate—including a running total of pledges to date—see www.theprouty.org.

For more information about Norris Cotton Cancer Center, see www.cancer.dartmouth.edu.

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