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Billy Starr grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and had what he describes as an ideal childhood. "I was a good athlete, okay enough student and had proficient enough social graces as to get by," Billy recalls, "it all seemed pretty easy until the day in which my mother became ill." Billy had just graduated from college and was about to embark on a hiking trip to Nepal when his mother, Betty Starr, was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, the world was no longer Billy's oyster. He stayed home and visited his mother in the hospital three times a day.

After Billy's mother died, Billy took odd jobs driving a truck, working at a newspaper, working in sales, but nothing seemed to be a calling until Billy gathered several friends together to ride across Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research.


"My goal in starting the Pan-Mass Challenge was to bring people together… to give back and raise money for cancer. I never had a career plan, and even when I created the PMC, it was more something I needed to do, to help me feel better and evoke my mother's memory."

Since the first ride in 1980, the Pan-Mass Challenge has grown from 36 cyclists to 3,600, raising over $100 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Today the PMC raises more money than any other athletic charity event in the country.

The PMC's success in fundraising is due, in part, to Billy Starr's innovative technique of guaranteed donations backed by a credit card. "When I first started the Pan-Mass Challenge, it was to be a form of event programming, it was a bike-a-thon and the idea was to put the focus on raising money. There really wasn't a prototype for this type of fundraising. The kind of fundraising that existed back then was black tie and bingo night. Event programming was not on the map in 1980."

When asked about how his mother might have viewed his success, Billy says, "She would be proud that I used my skills, my assets, and my energy to create something of worth and she would have totally endorsed, participated in, and encouraged it's growth and development."

For more information about Billy Starr and the Pan-Mass Challenge, please visit www.pmc.org.

 

 

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