To most of us a 200-mile trip sounds like a long car ride.
Imagine embarking on this trip balanced on a bicycle with skinny wheels— it
makes one's sitz bones quiver in fear. But for Joel Smith of Sanbornton, NH,
that 200-mile Ultimate Prouty ride is the highlight of his year.
Joel's passion for the ride began 14 years ago following
chemo treatments for a bout of cancer. Looking to get back in shape, the
thought of running made Joel think: ughhh.
He saw a poster at DHMC advertising The Prouty and thought: why not?
Joel's first ride in 2005 was a breezy 25 mile jaunt from Hanover to Lyme and back. He and his family raised a respectable $700 that year. Joel started to get excited about biking and raising money, so the next year he and his team raised $7,000 and by 2009 Joel was doing The Prouty Ultimate (going on 10 years now!). So far this spring, Joel and his team, Hope in Motion, have raised a staggering $52,000 for The Prouty this summer, with the help of the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation's matching funds. Letting a little well-deserved pride seep into his voice, Joel estimates Hope in Motion has raised approximately $300,000 for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) over the years.
What keeps Joel going over 200 miles spanning two days? It's not the conversation. He admits he's not much of a conversationalist while riding. It's certainly not the wildlife. Four years ago Joel and his oldest daughter were riding in The Prouty Ultimate from Manchester towards Hanover, when a moose popped out of the woods to their left. It trotted alongside their bikes for a moment before clomping back into the brush, cutting them off so closely the cyclists needed to brake!
Part of what does keep Joel's pedals spinning is the gorgeous scenery through Vermont and New Hampshire. He even claims to enjoy the climbs, welcoming the challenge— though the reward at the end of the ascent isn't bad either. The true power that Joel finds for the long ride flows from the power imbued in The Prouty itself. Everybody, he points out, is touched by cancer, either someone they love had it or has it or they themselves have dealt with it. "The Prouty gives us an emotional boost. It does more than raise money, it raises hope. It gives us the courage to keep moving forward. It's a celebration of life."
Joel doesn't want this story to be about him. He wants it to be about the groundbreaking research conducted at Norris Cotton Cancer Center that helps people all over the world. He wants it to be about the amazing nurses and doctors at NCCC who delivered outstanding care to 17,000 patients last year and who create such a caring, treat-the-whole-person-not-just-the disease patient experience at the Cancer Center. Joel wants this post to be about all of the supportive services not covered by insurance that NCCC provides to people fighting cancer to help them fight it harder and with less stress.
Not everyone has to do the 200-mile Prouty Ultimate as their part of fighting cancer. Joel assures you that joining The Prouty isn't scary and every participant and volunteer makes a difference, no matter what you do. Maybe you'd like to swing up to Hanover on July 13th? They say the scenery is lovely.