Bill Finan and the Pan-Mass Challenge

Bill Finan: One of Pan-Mass Challenges Finest

Bill Finan with PMC Founder Billy Starr (right)

The Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) is happening on August 1st.

Founded by Billy Starr, while he was hiking the Appalachian Trail with friends, the Pan-Mass Challenge is an annual bike-a-thon that raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. The event donates 100% of every rider-raised dollar directly to the cause.

The PMC has raised $414 million for adult and pediatric cancer care and research at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) through the Jimmy Fund.

Bill Finan, of Ayer, Massachusetts, personifies how personal the quest to raise money to eradicate cancer becomes for those who share his commitment to the PMC. He and many others ride their bikes 1,000 miles per month (weather permitting) to practice for the ride.

PMC and the Appalachian Trail

Starr, the founder of PMC, hiked the Appalachian Trail with three friends when he was 25.

Starr had been dreaming of backpacking the world after graduation. But, Starr's mother Betty died of melanoma at 49, and he funneled his emotions into a trek with friends along the Appalachian Trail.

The hike was Starr's idea. He planned the group's gear, food, and travel pace. He set up mail drops to post offices on the trail.

According to Starr, his mother's death, plus the emotional and organizational challenge of the trail, helped him become a leader dedicated to improving the lives of others.

In 1980, Billy Starr and dozens of cycling buddies set off for a weekend ride to the Cape. They also made the decision to use the ride to raise money to fight cancer. By the end, the fundamentals and inspiration of what is now the Pan-Mass Challenge were in place.

Bill Finan and the PMC

Bill and his wife Gail have each volunteered their time to the PMC for 14 years. Selling cookies is easier. Raffling off a bicycle is painless. PMC riders are a different breed. For them, it's personal. This year, it's too personal for comfort.

Earlier this year, Gail, Bill's beloved wife and my friend, was diagnosed with cancer. Here's a portion of a note he sent to his PMC supporters:

"Gail & I feel so lucky to have access to all of these fine hospitals but her treatment quite naturally is directed by her team of doctors at Dana-Farber. Every one of you have been generously supporting this hospital/research facility with your annual gifts via the PMC. I have always been grateful to all of you for joining me and the PMC in the fight against cancer for all mankind. But now, I am particularly grateful to you for your part in supporting this wonderful cancer-fighting place ... Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where this year, it's Gail's life, among others, that has been saved! Gail fully expects to be at her volunteer post doing PMC rider registrations in Sturbridge on August 1st."

Click here to check out Bill's profile on

How to Help the PMC

If you have a loved one with cancer, you understand the need to fight the fight with them.

Gail & Bill Finan, perennial PMC Volunteers

Gail & Bill Finan, perennial PMC Volunteers

The 35th Annual PMC will be held on August 2nd & 3rd in Massachusetts. PMC cyclists will ride with the goal of raising $40 million for DFCI.

If they are successful, PMC's total will rise to $450 million, but it all comes down to the thousands of individual riders and volunteers and their supporters.

Bill has been a top fundraiser for the PMC for many years -- what they call a "Heavy Hitter."

Heavy Hitters are the cream of the fund-raising crop. For them, the PMC is a year-round commitment. They are all about being loyal soldiers in the war against cancer.

Please support PMC in this battle against the insidious disease of cancer. You can join the fight by sponsoring Bill Finan. Every dollar given toward his ride will go to fight cancer.

I would not ask you to support Bill if I did not do so myself. Gifts of any size are welcome and every penny of your support funds cancer research.

You might not have a loved one facing cancer today. But you might tomorrow. That's the truth.

Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, and News

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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Gail on Jun 27, 2014
Thanks, Robert for such a great article!