July 14, 2013


'I'm Amazed It's Gone On All These Years' : Three Decades On, Prouty's Impact Is Larger Than Ever (Tris Wykes, 7/14/13, Valley News)

When Heather Klassen participated in the first Prouty fundraising ride for cancer research in 1982, the "event" involved four people biking 100 miles in the White Mountains to honor a friend who had recently died of the disease.

Saturday's Prouty scene couldn't have been more different. All around Klassen during the late morning and outside the Richmond Middle School, hundreds of people moved on foot and on bikes. There were large tents covering areas for food, first aid, merchandise and volunteer opportunities in medical research. Packs of people in brightly colored T-shirts strode past, their ages ranging from preschoolers to the elderly. A floating balloon arch bobbed in the breeze above the finish line, where cheers rang out each time a participant arrived.

"I'm amazed it's gone on all these years and people have supported it and made it continue," said Klassen, who was about to embark on a 10-kilometer walk through the woods around Storrs Pond, one of several Prouty participation options. "In 1982, we just did it on the spur of the moment."

Back then, Klassen, Cindy Spicer, Patty Carney and Cathy Hallesy were young oncology nurses at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital deeply touched by the death of their 54-year-old patient, Audrey Prouty. The manner in which the ovarian cancer patient and Warner, N.H., resident displayed grace, dignity and an upbeat attitude during nine years of sickness left a lasting impression on those around her.

"What she had gone through was so hard and we wanted to do something hard to honor her," said Carney, now a professor at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore. "Our goal was $2,000, and we ended up doubling that. But our media person arranged for a television station to record us on the ride and we were petrified, because we had no idea what we were doing."

Said Spicer: "I was the last one and I had a TV camera aimed at my rear end during a 12-mile climb on the Kancamagus Highway. I just kept thinking of all the pain Audrey had been in, and that I just couldn't get off that bike."

Carney recalls that Prouty refused to let cancer dampen her independent spirit, at one point walking to Main Street from Mary Hitchcock's old location near Occom Pond despite having to take a rolling IV stand and attached bags of medicine with her. When chemotherapy caused her hair to fall out, Prouty spread it on top of the bushes near her house and birds used it in their nest construction.

Prouty died on July 7, 1982, and the four nurses undertook the first memorial ride the next month, having told Prouty about it before she passed away.

About 35 riders showed up the second year and more than 100 the third year, when the event was held in Hanover for the first time. The 2012 Prouty raised more than $2.5 million for Dartmouth College's Norris Cotton Cancer Center and included more than 5,000 participants, 1,250 volunteers and 122 businesses. The goal for this year's two-day event was set at $2.75 million.

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Posted by at July 14, 2013 5:55 AM

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