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The Prouty: “A Good Way to Do Good!”

Each July, a special community gathers to fight cancer by taking part in activities that raise funds for research and promote the health of participants.

Cycling and walking, the original Prouty events, are still the most popular activities on Prouty day. A variety of routes—from a 3k walk that recent cancer survivors can handle to a two-day, 200-mile cycling route—offer options for people of all ages and fitness levels.

The Prouty began in 1982 when four nurses rode their bicycles 100 miles to honor an inspiring patient, Audrey Prouty. Those four nurses raised $4,000 to support Norris Cotton Cancer Center. By last year the Prouty had grown to include a community of thousands, and fundraising surpassed a $2.75 million goal.

Over the years additional activities like rowing, golfing, and the Virtual Prouty have been added, but the original Prouty events, cycling and walking, are still the most popular. In 2013, of 5,600 Prouty-ers 3,200 were bikers, 1,900 walkers, and the rest were golfers and rowers.

"There's just something about cycling and walking the beautiful Upper Valley that continues to draw people to these central Prouty event choices," says Jean Brown, executive director of Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Participation opportunities for all ages and all levels of fitness

Merle and Helen Schotanus will ride what they call the "octogenarian 20" in this year's Prouty
Merle and Helen Schotanus will ride what they call the "octogenarian 20" in this year's Prouty

More routes have been added over the years to build on the founding nurses' bicycle ride, and today cyclists can choose a 20, 35, 50, 77, or 100-mile route. In 2008 the Prouty Ultimate, the two-day, 200-mile event beginning in Manchester, N.H., was created.

Merle Schotanus and his wife, Helen, rode their first Prouty in 2006 and returned the next year to ride with friends. Two years later, he cofounded the Grantham Mountaineers, a team that has grown from nine members (raising $5,000) to 61 members (raising $26,700 in 2013).

Merle (a prostate cancer survivor who is now 83) and Helen (81) will be back this year to ride what they call "the octogenarian 20."

"People ask me how much longer I'll be riding The Prouty and I say: ‘as long as my legs and lungs will let me—I'll ride until I can no longer cross-train on Chieftain Hill!'" he says, referring to the hill he pushes his bike up each year.

Walk around a neighborhood, through the woods, or create your own trail

Last year Karen Blum and her husband Alfred carried 45 ribbons with names being honored by those sponsoring their walk. (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)
Last year Karen Blum and her husband Alfred carried 45 ribbons with names being honored by those sponsoring their walk. (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)

In 1992, walking was added to the Prouty. Two routes that took walkers through Hanover neighborhoods were expanded in 2005 to include wooded routes on the Oak Hill trail system next to Storrs Pond. Today walkers can choose from 3k, 5k, and 10k residential walks; 5k and 10k wooded routes; or create their own challenging 15k, 20k, or 30k route. To celebrate the Prouty's 30th anniversary in 2011, "Audrey's Walk" was added, a 3k route that can be managed by people dealing with the effects of cancer treatment, or other issues.

Karen Blum and her husband, Alfred, will be walking their fourth Prouty this year. In 2013 she raised $12,809 dollars for the Prouty, earning the "top fundraiser for walkers" title. Blum, whose life has been touched by cancer many times, says they always meet friends along the route. This year their walk is especially meaningful because Alfred's sister is fighting cancer.

"Doing the Prouty is a good way to do good—it is good for you, because you have to train!" she says. "And it's nice for us to be able to walk together; it really is a gift to ourselves: a social gift and a physical gift."

A special community that comes out each July

Blum says her favorite part of Prouty day is actually after they've completed walking, when people in Prouty gear wander the grocery store aisles, or cluster on street corners in town. "Total strangers come up to each other—it's like a secret handshake: Did you walk? Did you bike? How far did you go?" she says. "It's this little community that comes out once each year, like narcissus, and then goes underground again."

About the Prouty

The 33rd Annual Prouty will be held on July 11 and 12, 2014, in Hanover, N.H. To learn more about bicycling or walking the Prouty, or any of the other Prouty events, visit http://www.theprouty.org

Can't bike or walk the Prouty this year? Do a Virtual Prouty! "Virtual Prouty-ers" have walked the Great Wall of China, run in Australia, cycled in France, and mountain biked in California: Prouty-ing Virtually allows creative options for participants anywhere. Learn more about the Virtual Prouty.