Honoring Cancer's many Faces. And Fighting Back.

The PSNH Power Pushers come to the Prouty to honor a friend who is fighting kidney cancer: They love to ride. They celebrate their friend’s spirit and have a good time. And they help raise funds to support research that fights cancer.

Focus article photo

PSNH Power Pushers at the 2012 Prouty (l to r) front: Ken Magee, Wayne Flanagan; back: Claude Guay, Danny Marchand, Jim Magee

It all started with a group of diehard cyclists, united by a love of biking and a desire to help. Many were Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) employees, and they first began riding together to raise funds for the Breathe NH Seacoast ride.

"We all love to ride," said Jim Magee, a graphic designer from Derry, NH. "So when we have a good ride, have a good time, and give back at the same time? Everyone wins."

Since Jim Magee and his brother Ken became co-captains of the PSNH Power Pushers a few years ago, the team has expanded to 57 riders who gather for various charity rides, averaging one a month from May through October. They choose events carefully and stay close to home, so it was inevitable that they would eventually find themselves riding the Prouty.

An annual event since 1982, the Prouty is northern New England's largest charity fundraiser, and has raised more than $17 million to support cancer research and patient-centered care at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Walkers, cyclists, rowers, and golfers (new this year) form teams as coworkers, as a family, or simply to join with others to raise money to fight cancer. Some team members participate to honor a patient in treatment or a loved one lost to cancer.

The Prouty: A Look at why it Matters

People bring their story, or a loved one's story

When people gather on the day of the Prouty, survivors, family, friends, and neighbors bring the story of the people they honor. They wear t-shirts with photos or names; they line the route to cheer with banners and posters that celebrate the lives of those touched by cancer. It's an intensely personal event because cancer is a disease that touches everyone.

For this team, the face of cancer is Vinnie Kanhai-Singh. Magee and his teammates became friends with Vinnie, a passionate advocate for Breathe New Hampshire, through their participation in the annual Seacoast Bike Tour. When Kanhai-Singh was diagnosed with kidney cancer, his friends rallied to support him in the way they knew best: in the 2012 Prouty they rode the "Tour de Vinnie," and will return in 2013 to do it again.

The Prouty - Team Vinnie

The PSNH Power Pushes with Vinnie Kanhai-Singh

Magee builds the bikes he rides and also designs bikes for others. He recently completed a customized hand cycle for an athlete unable to use his legs. The bike he brings to the Prouty is painted with the "Tour de Vinnie" slogan, and Kanhai-Singh's name is prominently printed on the cross bar.

Prouty Tour de Vinnie Frame

"Tour de Vinnie" bike frame

"Vinnie has such an incredible attitude," said Magee. "He will not let this beat him. He's an inspiration to us all." This spring the team has been buoyed by the news that two of Vinnie's tumors have shrunk significantly during his treatment.

The highlight of the season: rider friendly, well organized, and fun!

In 2011 six PSNH Power Pushers rode the Prouty. In 2012, the team returned with 12 members and raised $2,250. This year the team's goal is 25 riders and $6,000.

 "When we bring people to ride this, they can't wait to do it again," said Magee. "It is the highlight of their season—after you've ridden it once, all the others pale"

Magee says the Prouty is the best organized of the rides he's attended. "It's rider friendly−not just the ride itself, but the organization. They really do it right." He praises all stages of organizing, from initial fundraising and training support to the festivities and food at the end of the ride. "Because we do so many, we usually bring the party to these events," he said. "At the Prouty we just ride and play!"

A party that makes a difference

"The Prouty provides us with resources that allow us to do things that we otherwise couldn't do," said Norris Cotton Cancer Center Director Mark Israel. "I think the juxtaposition of joy and seriousness is what really makes this a particularly meaningful day for large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds."

Prouty dollars support Cancer Center researchers with creative ideas, allowing them to obtain the preliminary data needed to compete for outside funding. Over a five year period a portion of Prouty donations− $1.2 million—were invested in small Prouty projects. Those investments returned over $20 million in larger federal grants. Money raised through The Prouty also makes possible patient supportive services that help ease the path of cancer patients and their families.

The 2013 Prouty will take place on July 12 and 13. "Golf the Prouty" and a new bike route, "The Prouty 77," have been added to the cycling, walking, and rowing event routes this year. Find more information on the Prouty website.

April 15, 2013