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
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
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 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
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
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.