PMC History

Commitment over time

Established by Billy Starr in 1980 and under his direction, the PMC has grown considerably and consistently from its modest beginnings into an event that draws 5,500 cyclists from 36 states and eight countries. Today, the Pan-Mass Challenge raises more money than any other athletic fundraising event in the country. The PMC generates half of the Jimmy Fund's annual revenue and it is Dana-Farber's single largest contributor. Over the past 34 years, PMC cyclists have ridden to raise and contribute $414 million to cancer research.

The now nationally recognized PMC is a tribute to Starr's unending desire to achieve, make a difference, and raise money for cancer research. It is also a model for all athletic fundraising events, setting the pace for a now $5 billion industry.

The Walk before the Ride

Physical adventures had always been second nature to Starr, an avid outdoorsman who honed his skills while attending college in Colorado. From rock climbing to biking to backpacking, Starr's education was equally physical and academic; he graduated from college with a thirst for physical challenges and the expectation of backpacking around the world. And then his mother, Betty Starr, just 49, died from melanoma.

It was soon after that a 25-year-old Starr set out with three friends to hike the Appalachian Trail. Since Starr was the instigator, he ended up doing all the work: He planned the group's gear, food, and travel pace. He set up supply mailings to the appropriate post offices. He carried the heaviest load, both emotionally and physically. And when nature pelted the young men with freezing rain for the first eight straight days of their trek, it was Starr who encouraged the group to keep going and to keep focused on the challenge.

From this experience, Starr says he understood that those who put in the mental energy, not just the physical, follow their goals from theory to mission accomplished. From that point forward, Starr knew he could achieve anything to which he committed his mind and body.

The PMC: A timeline of achievement

2013: The PMC raises and contributes $39 million, representing 60% of the Jimmy Fund's annual revenue and 100% of every rider-raised dollar.

2006: The national Lung Cancer Alliance presents Starr and the PMC with a lifetime achievement award. "The PMC has made what we do at Dana-Farber possible," said Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz, Jr., M.D. "When they write the history of how cancer was conquered, the PMC will be in chapter one."

2004: Dana-Farber awards Starr the Sidney Farber Medical Research Award for the exceptional contribution he has made to reduce the burden of cancer on society.

Starr is featured in a documentary about entrepreneurs entitled "Lemonade Stories," along with corporate moguls Richard Branson, Russell Simmons and Arthur Blank.

1998: Dana-Farber awards Starr the Sidney Farber Medical Research Award, a very prestigious honor given to those who have made an exceptional contribution to reduce the burden of cancer on society.

Starr is the speaker at Babson College's graduate commencement and receives an honorary degree for "entrepreneurial vision and leadership."

1997: The pedestrian bridge connecting Dana-Farber's Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Research Laboratories to its Dana Building was dedicated as the "Pan-Massachusetts Challenge Bridge to Progress" in honor of the event's contribution to cancer research.

1993: Starr and the PMC are awarded the Jimmy Fund's highest honor, the Thomas A. and Jean R. Yawkey Memorial Award for outstanding service.

1990: The PMC had become the most successful cycling fundraiser in the world.

1984: The PMC establishes itself as the largest grossing fundraising event for the Jimmy Fund, New England's most popular charity.

1980: Starr leads dozens of friends who together form a loftier goal than speed and endurance. They make a weekend out of it and set a goal of raising money to combat cancer.
By Sunday afternoon, Starr finds his calling and the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge is born.

1978: As a graduate of the University of Denver, Starr earns a masters degree in education from Northeastern University.

1977: Starr initiates a new annual routine. Waking up at 4 a.m., he hops on his bike, focused on making it to Provincetown in time to catch the 3:30 p.m. ferry back to Boston.