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The Prouty Race: You Can Make a Difference

Jul 10, 2012 11:29AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

The Prouty

The Prouty, a biking, walking, rowing, and volunteering event, celebrates its 31st year this July—bigger than ever. The event began when four brave women biked 100 miles of rugged White Mountain trails in honor of their patient and friend, Audrey Prouty, who was fighting a grueling battle against ovarian cancer. The ride was planned in her honor, but it was biked in her memory—Audrey lost her decade-long battle before their inaugural ride. Today, over 5,000 participants and volunteers gather for one day in July to continue the fight against all cancers. But as we learned from Dr. Mark Israel, director of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, and Jean Brown, executive director of the Prouty itself, “Prouty” means much more than one single event. In fact, the joy that the Prouty brings spreads throughout the entire year, touching lives everywhere.

To Dr. Israel, the Prouty “facilitates people who want to help the cancer center,” but don’t exactly have the direct means to do so. Anyone who has ever been affected by cancer (and it’s safe to say that everyone has been affected in some way) has the opportunity to participate, whether one chooses the 200-mile bike ride or the less-daunting but equally noble 3K walk. In addition, over 1,000 volunteers participate annually, setting up tents, handing out food, and dispensing drinks and energy bars at the “SAG” stations spaced out every 10 miles along the courses. In fact, what really defines the Prouty is how community centered it is. The whole region comes out on this day for a single cause: the battle against cancer. Just take a look at the list of sponsors on the Prouty website—hundreds of local businesses step up to volunteer their services. Many hours of work and training are logged by staff at the Cancer Center as well as athletes and volunteers who participate, and their “year-long effort” really pays off. Last year alone, the Prouty raised $2.5 million, and that money went straight into action.

The dollars raised allow the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at DHMC to “provide the best possible care and to conduct research to improve care in the future.” And this is no measly sum; over its 31-year history, including this year’s expected total, the Prouty will have raised over $17 million. Where exactly do these dollars go? A portion goes to individual faculty at the Cancer Center in the form of small grants. These grants allow researchers to obtain data and, subsequently, larger grants from other institutions. Their research is shaping the future of cancer treatment not only at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock but all over the world. Money raised also provides funding for state-of-the-art equipment for treatment, which Dr. Israel refers to as “research infrastructure.” Another portion of money raised goes to patient support, which includes comfort measures like massages, Reiki, and a resident artist, writer, and even harpist at the hospital. These programs are intended to relax cancer patients and ease their suffering, and as Dr. Israel puts it, “The patients like it, and if they like it, we’re for it.”

Truly, the spirit of the event is a reminder of why the research, hospital care, and treatment even exist at all: to find a cure for the ones we love. Jean Brown shares heart-warming stories of bikers pedaling that last hill of the 100- or even 200-mile ride, who are able to push through because they know that the spirit of a loved one is there beside them. “It’s things like that,” she says, “that just make you cry.”

Today, the Prouty stands for even more than the gathering of community to fight the battle. As if curing cancer and saving lives weren’t enough, the Prouty staff is dedicated to making the event as eco-friendly as possible. “The Green Team,” as they are called, work tirelessly on the day of the event to help sort through the recyclable and compostable waste of more than 5,000 people. In contrast to previous years when the garbage from the event totaled nearly two dump-trucks full, Jean Brown delightedly shares that last year, the garbage totaled about one pickup truck’s worth. “We are working so hard to make our [carbon] footprint teeny,” she says. It’s safe to say that the environmental one is the only impact of the Prouty that has been reduced; in every other way, the effects of the event have grown exponentially over the past decade.

As the Prouty grows, so too does the gratitude from all those at the NCCC. Dr. Israel shares how “appreciative the Cancer Center is for the community support that we receive.” Medical care, especially cancer treatment, is never easy, but the load is lightened when everyone gives himself or herself willingly and freely to the cause. As Dr. Israel summed up, “[One message] that the Prouty stands for? You can make a difference.”

And it’s not too late for YOU to make a difference. The event takes place on July 13 and14, but you can still sign up. Bikers and rowers must register online before 5pm on Wednesday, July 11, and volunteers should register online as well, but walkers can register the day of the event, right at the Richmond School. In fact, this year marks the 20th year of Prouty walking, and in honor of this momentous occasion, the Byrne Foundation has generously offered to donate $50 for every walker over last year’s 1,400 walking participants. To reach the goal of $15,000, the Prouty needs those 300 additional walkers. So come and get your Prouty on! You can register online at theprouty.org.

Hope to see you there!

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