In honor of the 30th anniversary Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the PMC blog will take you on a ride through history. Today we continue 30 years in 30 weeks with a look back at the PMC in 1996. We’ll coast through the event’s history, featuring a new year each week, as we lead up to the 30th annual ride on Aug. 1 and 2.
Check out past 30 Years in 30 weeks posts here.
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30 years in 30 weeks
Thirty-six of the 1,800 riders in the 1996 Pan Massachusetts Challenge were the “Living Proof” riders – the men and women who are living proof that cancer research saves lives.
The 36 cancer survivors gathered on the lawn at Mass Maritime Academy on that Saturday afternoon in August 1996, standing proudly behind the Living Proof banner to take their ceremonial picture marking the completion of day one of the two-day PMC.
The 1996 group included Tom Phillips, then 75 and the PMC’s oldest rider, who got on his bike after battling cancer 10 years earlier and never looked back. Another Living Proof rider was 33-year-rold Matt White, who had been a PMCer since surviving cancer five years earlier.
White was eager for the Living Proof photo to take place. He hoped the image of healthy, strong and very determined cancer survivors would encourage others to join in. The Living Proof photo has been a growing tradition ever since and more and more cancer survivors and patients sign up to ride. In 2008, there were about 300 Living Proof riders.
Here are some past Living Proof Photos:
“Twenty years ago, researchers found a way to detect my cancer while it was easily treatable,” White said in the 1996 PMC Yearbook. “If the money I raise helps find a cure for someone 20 years from now, then every mile of training is worthwhile.”
Phillips continued to earn the title of PMC’s oldest rider for years to come and was a rider and volunteer through 2003. White has been a PMC rider and volunteer for more than 17 years.
Along with celebrating the Living Proof riders, the 1996 PMC also marked a unique milestone of fundraising achievement. Boston businessman and philanthropist Tom Lee and an anonymous rider made an extraordinary gift of $1.5 million to the PMC, to be paid out over 5 years. It was the first time anyone endowed a bicycling event that had made fundraising its core mission.
“The PMC has come to embody values that philanthropists, like yourselves, can embrace: high goals, hard work, community involvement, family and accountability,” Billy Starr wrote to riders that year. “These values provide living proof that our efforts do make a difference.”
“The PMC is no longer (if ever) about the mileage,” Starr said. “The PMC is about taking a stand against cancer and participating in the effort.”
PMC 1996 facts
Event date: Aug. 3 and 4
190 total miles