By Judy McCarthy and Mary O’Rourke
It’s about raising money. It’s about raising hope. It’s a way of remembering those we have lost and celebrating those who have survived. It’s a time for family and friends, neighbors and strangers to be part of the work to eradicate a disease that has impacted many lives. The Prouty, a two-day event sponsored by the Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is wholly devoted to raising funds to support innovative cancer research and essential patient services. One of just 45 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country, and the only one in northern New England, NCCC has 15 locations throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.
The Eastman community has a long history of supporting local organizations, including NCCC. Joining a team of friends, neighbors, and family members makes participating in the Prouty fun and rewarding. When spring rolls around, many would-be participants can be seen cycling the hills of Road Round the Lake and lacing up their running shoes to get in shape for this popular event held each year on the second weekend of July. In 2015, two local teams—Eastman Neighbors and the Grantham Mountaineers—had a combined total of 115 participants who raised $69,000.
Grantham Mountaineers Continue to Rise to the Challenge
Supporting The Prouty by forming the Grantham Mountaineers in 2008 was a natural outgrowth of the Blue Mountain Snow Dusters (BMSD) Outdoor Recreation Club. BMSD was founded in 1974 in response to a suggestion by the Grantham selectmen who hoped it would promote good relations between local snowmobile enthusiasts and the cross-country skiers who often shared the vast trail system the snowmobilers maintained.
Former ECA Board member and long-time Grantham resident Merle Schotanus was instrumental in the development of the Grantham Mountaineers. Merle and his wife Helen, both cycling enthusiasts, have participated in the Prouty since 2006, and Merle, a two-time cancer survivor, has captained the Mountaineers since its inception. From the onset, many Eastman residents have participated with the Mountaineers, and in 2015 almost a third of the team was from Eastman. Mary O’Rourke co-captained the Mountaineers with Merle in 2008 and 2009, and Susan Mattson in 2010 and 2011. In last year’s event, 19 Eastman residents were part of the 8-year-old Prouty team that was 62 members strong. At final tally, the Mountaineers raised $35,100.
That same year, the Mountaineers initiated a project called the Grantham Prouty Scholars Program to recognize students in grades three through six in the Grantham Village School (GVS) for their outstanding effort and achievement in the humanities, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and athletics. Two trailblazers, 4th grader Miles Surges in the STEM program and 5th grader John Bieszczad in athletics, were named 2015 Prouty Scholars and participated with the team in last year’s Prouty. The Mountaineers plan to significantly expand the program in 2016; Grantham School Superintendent Jackie Guillette and GVS principal Heather Cantagallo are enthusiastic about an ongoing project that they view as beneficial to both the students and the town.
The Mountaineers’ slogan for 2015 was “Want to Fight Cancer and Build Community?” There is no doubt that the team will continue the charge as Eastman residents Barbara Jones and Bob and Judy McCarthy join the Mountaineers’ 2016 leadership team to help recruit team members and build community spirit.
Eastman Neighbors Tee Up a New Team
When The Prouty’s organizers added golf as a fundraising option for the 2015 event, organizers for the NCCC golf benefit that had been running at Eastman for 15 years decided to end the local event. After several years of participating in The Prouty on the Grantham Mountaineers team, Eastman residents Mary O’Rourke, Janet Correia, and Karen and John Jennings saw an opportunity for fundraising within Eastman for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. They formed Eastman Neighbors and acquired status as a recognized group from the Board of Directors in 2015. The recognition allows use of ECA communication channels for publicity and use of ECA facilities for team gatherings, but not the use of the ECA logo.
In need of a logo, the team sponsored a contest for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Grantham Village School to design one. Fifth-grade student Seth Carl designed the winner that was chosen from among 60 entries and graced the front of team t-shirts worn by 32 walkers, 15 cyclists, and a golf foursome. The team raised funds by holding a pancake breakfast at the South Cove Activity Center to purchase those tees, but this year, two local businesses, CG Shepherd Realty and It Takes Two, LLC, will provide them for new members of the 2016 Eastman Neighbors team.
The first year for the Eastman Neighbors team was a huge success by all accounts. Among the participants who raised $33,900 were eight cancer survivors and two virtual participants. Gary Douville had this to say of his and wife, Linda’s, participation: “The fact that the Prouty is non-competitive appealed to us. We didn’t know what to expect but come July, when we arrived at the event headquarters in Hanover, we were astonished at the enormity of the event, how well organized it was, and the ‘all-for-one, one-for-all’ feeling of the thousands of individuals, families, friends and teams who biked, walked, ran, rowed and golfed to raise money to assist in the fight against cancer.” In fact, the Douvilles were so impressed that they agreed to be the co-captains of the Eastman Neighbors Prouty Team for 2016. According to Gary, “It didn’t take much convincing.”
Adopting the battle cry of the Mountaineers—to enjoy the camaraderie of friends and neighbors while raising awareness and funds to combat cancer—the organizers and leaders of the teams say, “Let’s Prouty.”
For more information about the 35th Annual Prouty go to http://theprouty.org. To learn more about our local teams contact the following: Eastman Neighbors: Captains Gary and Linda Douville, firstname.lastname@example.org; Grantham Mountaineers: Merle Schotanus, email@example.com or 863-2293.
A non-profit since 1975, the Blue Mountain Snow Dusters (BMSD) has evolved into an all season outdoor club, a 501c(3) public charity dedicated to maintaining over 65 miles of free recreational trails in Grantham and Croydon, and committed to building community in Grantham.
In 2015, Judy McCarthy, former editor of Eastman Living, marched with the Grantham Mountaineers in the annual 4th of July town parade and a week later walked the Prouty’s wooded route with her grandson Lu. It was her most memorable Prouty.
Mary O’Rourke is an Eastman resident who has participated in the Prouty since 2008. Her most memorable Prouty was in a steady warm rain for 12 miles with two Eastman friends to keep a promise to walk one mile for each donor.