"Closer By The Mile" - The Story of the Country’s Most Successful Athletic Fundraiser

Bill Alfano's picture
Bill Alfano

"Closer By The Mile" - The Story of the Country’s Most Successful Athletic Fundraiser

A pioneer of what is now a $2 billion athletic fundraising event industry, the Pan-Mass Challenge has maintained the gold standard in the industry, annually raising and contributing to charity more money than any other event in the country. For the first time, the story of how the PMC was founded and what it has become  has been told. Closer By The Mile is now available to the public at Amazon.

In Closer By the Mile: The story of the country’s most successful athletic fundraiser, PMC cyclist, author, and grieving father, Ken Brack, has compiled decades of PMC history, beginning in the depression with details about parents of Billy Starr, the man who created the event, to the uplifting stories of the children today who are beneficiaries of the $375 million the PMC has raised for cancer research and treatment.

The PMC was an athletic fundraising event before there were athletic fundraising events. When the PMC was founded in 1980, there were a few walking events and two bike rides that followed along the lines of the civil rights marches of the 60s and 70s. They were designed to raise awareness, not money. 

Along came the PMC, created and orchestrated by Starr, then 29, an athlete who had already lost his mother, an uncle, and a cousin to cancer. Starr would wake up at 4 a.m., and ride his bike from Newton to Provincetown with the goal of making the 3 p.m. ferry back to Boston. If he didn’t make it, he’d hitchhike home. To him, this was fun, and cathartic. After Starr lost his mother, he wandered a bit, trying to find his way. Nothing fed his soul. 

And then it hit him. He’d bring others to ride with him, others who may be grieving losses, and together they’d raise money for cancer care and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.  That first year, Starr and 35 friends raised $10,200. In 2012, 5,000 cyclists rode to raise $37 million.

Closer By The Mile is Brack’s labor of love. Not paid to write the book, and promising to give 75 percent of the profits earned back to the Pan-Mass Challenge, Brack’s goal was simply to honor Starr, the organization he built, and share a sample of the thousands of stories of people for whom the PMC is an annual pilgrimage. 

 “As one of the PMC trustees told me, the PMC is a story that deserves to be told in full,” says Brack. “I wrote the book to convey the spirit of the event, what I found to be extraordinary levels of reciprocal giving, from every angle of participation.”  

Closer by the Mile is as much about the people who ride in the event as those who benefit from it. Brack follows the story of Team Huckleberry, which each year adds an additional 184 miles to the 190-mile PMC by starting their ride in the driveway of the team’s “pedal partner,” Hannah Hughes, an eight-year-old from Ballston Spa, NY, who is being treated for a rare type of leukemia.  He tells the story of the people who cheer for riders along the sides of the road including that of Jack O’Riordan,  now 17, who spent his youth thanking riders for raising money for Jimmy Fund, where he was treated for cancer at age three. As soon as he was old enough to ride in the PMC, he jumped on a bike and became a member of the team.  

Readers – from PMC cyclists and volunteers  -- to newcomers to the event will be engaged by this page-turner that shows the progression of the PMC from a weekend bike ride to the nation’s most successful athletic fundraising event. 

More from author Ken Brack.


Post written by Teak Media + Communication