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 2000. 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.
30 years in 30 weeks
The 2000 Pan-Massachusetts Challenge pulled in an astonishing $12.5 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a 30 percent increase over the previous year.
A major part of that year’s fundraising success came thanks to an entrepreneur, cyclist and three-time cancer survivor.
Patrick Byrne didn’t know of the PMC until he received a random phone call from Billy Starr six weeks before the 2000 Heavy Hitter dinner. Byrne is founder and CEO of online shopping outlet Overstock.com. Starr asked Byrne to be the event’s featured speaker, to ride in the PMC, and oh, by the way, would he donate $1 million?
Many people had sought out Byrne to hear about his battle with and survival from three bouts of cancer so severe his recovery marveled doctors across the world. Yet, despite keeping his story private for years and turning down dozens and dozens of speaking opportunities, when Billy Starr called, Byrne was compelled.
“Within three or four minutes I found my self agreeing,” he told PMCers at the dinner. His speech that night was met with silence, as 500 PMCers hung on his every word. When he was finished telling his story (read it here) the crowd jumped up and rushed the stage. Everyone wanted to meet this amazing man.
Cancer changed Byrne’s life in 1985, not long after he graduated from college. The disease had metastasized through nearly his entire body. He was given a grim diagnosis. He had 10 surgeries and lost 60 pounds and was told if he lived, he’d never walk again.
Defying the odds and his doctors, Byrne got better and, with the push from his brother, he became a cyclist. The pair rode from Califorina to Florida when Byrne was released from the hospital, thinking a long ride would help him recover. By the time they reached the east coast, Byrne was tanned, healthy and strong.
Cancer would return two more times, but Byrne never gave up.
In 2000, when Starr asked Byrne to ride from his home in Salt Lake City and join the PMC, Byrne upped the anti, volunteering to ride across the country from San Francisco. Due to medical complications, Byrne abandoned his trip in Greenwich, Conn., a day after appearing with Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show where the 2000 PMC cycling jersey.
He donated the $1 million regardless and went down in history as one the PMC’s largest fundraisers.
Byrne would never actually ride in the PMC, but in 2004, Byrne and his company became an even greater part of the PMC family, signing on as a presenting sponsor of the event.
In 2001, Byrne founded Worldstock.com, Overstock’s socially responsible goods department, as a way to stop global poverty. The shopping site sells the skilled crafts of people in developing nations.
“Worldstock is the best idea of my life and in a very real way, Billy Starr and the PMC got me thinking along the path that led to Worldstock. Was it possible to build a business within a business whose main function was to do good in the world?” Byrne says. “I think of Billy Starr as the greatest social entrepreneur in America, and my experiences with him and the PMC opened my eyes to the possibility of doing more good with my life.”
PMC 2000 facts
$12.5 million raised
190 total miles