Like so many Pan-Mass Challenge participants, Wellesley’s Jarrett Collins first took part in the massive annual fundraiser for cancer research and treatment in support of a friend affected by the disease.
“In 2009, a friend of mine who lost her husband to cancer put together a team of riders to honor the doctors and nurses at Dana-Farber who helped her husband live as long and healthy as he could,” Collins said in a phone interview. “I said, ‘Great, I haven’t been on a bike since probably college, but why not?’ Once our team completed the ride in 2009 I was hooked and knew I’d be doing it for the rest of my life.”
Not only has Collins taken part every year since, but in 2019 joined the PMC leadership staff, and was recently promoted from president to CEO of the non-profit started by fellow Wellesley resident Billy Starr. A longtime PMC rider and friend urged a recruiter for the organization to reach out to Collins when it was seeking a chief operations officer to manage the growing outfit’s increasing complexity. Collins spent the first 2 decades of his career in venture capital supporting tech startups, then switched his focus to social causes, including with the renowned Partners in Health organization and then with Rwanda’s University of Global Health Equity.
Collins, who has lived in Wellesley with his family since 2011, says the PMC is “the envy of the bike-a-thon world” given its success in fundraising for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Set for Aug. 3-4, the PMC is on track this year to crack the $1B mark for total funds raised to date. Rider registration is now open, with a deadline of July 1 (volunteer registration is upcoming).
The PMC started off modestly in 1980, with a few dozen friends riding across the state, and getting lost along the way, while raising $10,200 for Dana-Farber.
PMC officials can rattle off endlessly impressive numbers, including that the 6,500 riders raise an average of $10K in funds, even though their requirements are much less, and that some 10% of riders and volunteers themselves have lived with cancer. All money raised goes directly to Dana-Farber, and Collins points out that most is unrestricted, meaning that the institute has discretion over funding projects that can’t necessarily get grants.
“A lot of what happens every year at Dana-Farber has the fingerprints of PMC riders and volunteers all over it,” he said, adding that it’s unique for a 501(c) organization to pass through its funds to another nonprofit as the PMC does.
Wellesley’s PMC contributions are impressive, too, starting with Babson College’s generous support for the event, which has routes that start and end there. Wellesley counted about 150 riders and volunteers this past year, and of course has many generous donors among its population.
This year’s event includes more than a dozen routes, ranging from 25 to 200-plus, allowing both experienced and more novice cyclists to take part. Wellesley, Bourne, Provincetown, Foxborough, and Sturbridge are among the communities involved.
Collins said that while some things remain similar year to year at the PMC, which he describes as “a rolling celebration and cathartic experience,” weather can be a big factor. “Particularly hot weather or wet weather does give you better war stories,” he said.