Counting on The Prouty Bounce: Companies, Employees Want to Play a Role, Make a Difference
Paul Carlson, of Lebanon, looks up at Joan Klebes of North Haverhill. While fixing her flat tire while volunteering with others from Omer & Bob’s Sport Shop during The Prouty at Frances C. Richmond Middle School in Hanover. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Keri Craft, of Hanover, and her daughter Riley Craft, 11, fill water cups during The Prouty in Hanover on Saturday. The Crafts are volunteering with a team from Simple Energy, of West Lebanon, of which Keri’s husband and Riley’s father Kinson Craft is co-owner with Rob Stenger of Enfield. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Now that The Prouty is over and the celebration of raising millions for cancer research has subsided, sponsoring businesses owners hope the real reward of the event will kick in and carry through in the weeks to come.
The bounce from The Prouty will go beyond the marketing opportunities and name exposure before an estimated 20,000 onlookers, participants and volunteers, and it will translate into being good for business, businesses owners said last week.
And the tired muscles and sore feet that many of the 6,200 participants and volunteers are feeling today is a small price to pay for the sense of pride, cohesiveness and satisfaction they will take back to work on Monday.
If it were just about raising money and supporting cancer research, the event might not have lasted as it has for more than 30 years. Employees and companies take part because it gives them a sense of making a difference in the fight against a too familiar disease and of playing a significant part in the larger community, the sponsors said.
“It’s a give-and-take thing that goes beyond just helping raise money for a good cause. It costs us a lot, but we get it back in ways that are hard to measure (on the bottom line),” said John Pepper, chief executive officer of Boloco, a chain of 21 East Coast burrito restaurants, including one in Hanover.
Last year, Boloco raised $55,000 for The Prouty, and this year, the amount will nearly be the same. The company also donated about 1,000 burritos and had 45 employees take part in the event.
In return, “we get to get out in the beautiful countryside of New Hampshire and Vermont, get good exercise and enjoy life a little more. But what we really get is a sense of pride in being part of great event in a great community. It makes our employees feel good about themselves and the company, to be a team. It’s hard to calculate that,” said Pepper, an avid bicyclist who has taken part in The Prouty since 2004.
Since it got its start in 1982, The Prouty has raised more than $17 million for cancer research at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and for compassionate services for cancer patients and their families at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The Prouty was founded by four nurses who bicycled across the White Mountains to raise money for cancer research in honor of a patient, Audrey Prouty, who died of cancer that same year.
Today, the event has more than 120 corporate sponsors and hundreds of volunteers who help keep expenses low, allowing 87 cents of every dollar to go toward fighting cancer, according to event’s organizers, Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
The funds raised by The Prouty provide seed money for cancer researchers competing for grants. In one recent five-year period, $1.2 million in Prouty funds invested in local research resulted in $20 million in federal grants, according to the organization’s website.
“The Prouty is a uniter, an energizer and a feel-gooder,” said Ned Redpath, owner of Coldwell-Banker Redpath & Co., a Hanover real estate firm. The company gave The Prouty $10,000, and employees took part in events and volunteered. Redpath was one of the organizers of the new Prouty golf event and one of the 145 golfers who played Saturday’s first-year tournament wearing Prouty golf shirts, provided by the Realtor.
“It’s insane that a little community like this one could raise more than $2.5 million for cancer research,” Redpath said. “It’s really cool and brings out the best in us. It makes me very proud of this community that I love living in.”
Richard Wallace, who owns Omer & Bob’s sporting goods shop in Lebanon, has been a Prouty supporter almost since the beginning.
One of the four founding nurses, Patty Carney, approached Wallace in the 1980s shortly after he purchased the business and ask him to donate a bicycle.
“Well, a bicycle was about all of the budget I had for promotion for the year, but I did it anyway and have been helping ever since,” he said.
In addition to giving money, Wallace provides bicycle repair service before the race.
“It’s amazing that people will show up expecting to ride 50 miles, and their tires have holes in them or the bike won’t shift or have any brakes. We just try to get them ready so they’ll be safe,” he said.
Although he enjoys helping out, The Prouty also is good for his business. He sees an uptick in bicycle sales, bike repairs and tune ups in the months before the race.
For Eva Christensen, who owns Earthtenders, an organic recycling company in Farmington, N.H., The Prouty doesn’t help her business at all.
She designed, organized and headed the Green Team at the event, something that took more than 14 hours to do on Saturday. The team of 55 volunteers gathers and removes two tons of waste each year, and recycles 98 percent of it, she said.
Christensen lost both of her parents to cancer, and when she was asked to help out six years ago, she gladly accepted the challenge, she said.
The Prouty does little for her bottom line — she doesn’t do any business in the Upper Valley because it’s too expensive to get her recycled products to this area from the eastern part of New Hampshire, and so the name recognition doesn’t help.
“I do it because I feel good about helping cancer research and helping clean up the environment,” she said.
Good for Business
Hypertherm, which has 1,100 employees in the Upper Valley, is one of the largest corporate sponsors. The company’s philanthropic foundation makes a donation, the size of which is not disclosed, but Hypertherm is listed at the $75,000 level, along with White Mountains Insurance Group and its affiliates. In addition, more than 100 of the company’s employees, called “associates” — who are encouraged to use their paid volunteering time — and their friends and relatives participate or volunteer at The Prouty and raise additional money from other employees, said Jack Lee, who heads up one of Hypertherm’s product lines. Lee has been a member of the Friends of Norris Cotton board of directors for seven years and a participant in the event for eight years.
“We’ve all had a run-in with cancer or been touched by it one way or the other, so it’s an easy organization to support, but it’s also good for business,” he said.
“When our associates go off into the community and participate in something like this, it strengthens their ties with the company and makes them feel good about what they did. … Over time, that becomes ingrained into the corporate culture. It makes the associate more productive and feel good about the organization and themselves,” Lee said.
“It’s also great for building teamwork. People, who wouldn’t necessarily have an opportunity to work together here, have been able to participate and get to know each other and work as a team,” he said.
“There’s a lot of excitement here about The Prouty. You see people training at lunchtime and in the mornings,” said Stacey Chiocchio, Hypertherm’s corporate social responsibility project manager. She’s participated in The Prouty for the last five years.
This year, she trained at least four days a week, riding 25 to 50 miles a day.
“I live in Grantham, so I drive in to Lebanon at 5 a.m. and ride with a friend from here,” generally going to Lyme and back.
“Many of our associates know someone who has had cancer or is going through treatment, and they want to help. As owners (Hypertherm is employee owned), it makes us proud of the company and feel good about working here,” she said.
“One of our associates, who is from our Netherlands office, planned her vacation this year to be in New Hampshire the weekend of The Prouty so she could participate in the event. She happened to be here last year and participated. This year, she is bringing her husband to join her,” Chiocchio said.
“We all feel like we want to try to do something to help others who are going through this terrible time in their lives (with cancer). I’m not a doctor or a medical researcher, but this is a way to help by just riding and raising money. It makes you feel pretty good because it’s a good cause,” she said.
Warren Johnston can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3216.