A bike ride that started with 36 people in 1980 has now raised half a billion dollars — affirming its status as the largest philanthropic engine of one of the nation’s top cancer hospitals.
The Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual ride to support Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has grown to 6,000 cyclists from 41 states and five countries. And it has earned a place on the national map of “a-thon” fundraisers, the sporting events for which participants wrangle charitable donations from friends and family.
In that group, the Pan-Mass Challenge is the 12th largest, according to the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, which tracks this category of fundraising. And, if you look at the athletic fundraisers that consist of only one event, it’s the highest-grossing in the nation.
Nationally, bike-a-thons have been booming, even as successful runs and walkathons have been losing ground, said David Hessekiel, president of the Peer-to-Peer group, which has no financial ties to the Pan-Mass Challenge.
To answer why biking is such a lucrative way to raise money, Starr said, you have to look at “who rides bikes.”
“It’s turned into an upper-middle-class sport,” he said. You can’t get a nice road bike without spending a good chunk of money.
Hessekiel put it more bluntly: “People at a more intense level of biking are Type A wealthy guys” who have no trouble raising money for charity.