Billy Starr Founder & Executive Director The Pan-Mass Challenge
Billy Starr founded and leads the Pan-Mass Challenge, the most successful athletic fundraising event in the world.
Since 1980, the PMC, a 190-mile bike-a-thon, has contributed $414 million to cancer research. By 1984, the PMC had established itself as the largest grossing fundraising event for the Jimmy Fund, New England’s most popular charity. By 1990, the PMC had become the most successful cycling fundraiser in the world. Today, the PMC raises two to three times more money for charity than any other athletic event in the world.
Starr has built a unique organization that performs at a level of proficiency rarely found in either the corporate or nonprofit worlds. In 2013, the organization raised and contributed $39 million, representing more than 50 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar. The PMC is Dana-Farber’s single largest contributor.
In 1993, the Jimmy Fund honored Starr and the PMC at Fenway Park by awarding him the Tom & Jean Yawkey Memorial Award for outstanding service. In 1997, the bridge connecting the Jimmy Fund Clinic to the new Smith Research Labs and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was named the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge Bridge to Progress. In 1998, Starr was the speaker at Babson College’s graduate commencement and received an honorary degree for “entrepreneurial vision and leadership.” In 2004, Starr was featured in a documentary about entrepreneurs entitled Lemonade Stories, along with corporate moguls Richard Branson, Russell Simmons and Arthur Blank. This same year, Dana-Farber awarded Starr the Sidney Farber Medical Research Award, a very prestigious honor given to those who have made an exceptional contribution to reduce the burden of cancer on society. In October 2006, the National Lung Cancer Alliance presented Starr with its Lifetime Achievement Award. The Friends of Dana-Farber honored Starr in 2010 for his more than 30 years of support and service to the Institute. In May 2014, Starr received the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition’s 2014 Community Leadership Award and an honorary degree from Salem State University where he also served as commencement speaker.
The PMC infrastructure consists of eight full-time and four part-time employees; a 10-person volunteer coordinating staff; a 14-person Board of Trustees; 5,500 cyclists; 3,300 volunteers; 46 communities; 200 companies, which donate more than $4 million worth of merchandise and services; and more than 240,000 individuals who sponsor PMC cyclists.
Starr consults on event programming around the globe. He’s worked with Pelotonia to benefit the James Cancer Center in Columbus, OH; the Dolphin Cycling Challenge for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, FL; Pedal the Cause for the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, MO; the Ride to Conquer Cancer for Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto; Cure on Wheels for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.; the Aspen Ride for the Cure for the Susan Komen Group in Aspen, CO; and with a future fundraiser in Tuscany, Italy.
Before starting the PMC, he was a reporter for newspapers in Massachusetts and Colorado, worked in public relations, and was the squash coach at Babson College. He received his BA from the University of Denver in 1973, a Master’s in Education from Northeastern University in 1978, an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Babson College in 1998, and an honorary degree from Bay Path College in 2008. An avid cyclist, skier, and racquet player, Starr has ridden in, and fundraised for, his own event for each of its 34 years. Starr lives with his wife, Meredith, and daughters, Hannah and Sophia, in Wellesley, Mass.
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