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JMS Biking Small Money Matters

When I was single and in my early 30’s living in Boston, I got into cycling. For no other reason than a friend saying, “Hey I’m doing a bike ride out in Concord this weekend, I’ve got an extra bike, why don’t you come too?” So I did, and after 40 miles of pedaling my friend’s too-big-for-me mountain bike around the beautiful suburbs and countryside outside Boston, I was hooked. Got my hands on a used road bike (actually, a pretty sweet old Specialized racing bike that still hangs proudly in my basement) and I started riding.

Seeing my enthusiasm, this same friend talked me into doing the Pan Mass Challenge with her a few months later.

The PMC is a two-day bike ride from Sturbridge, MA, to the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown. That’s roughly 200 miles from start to finish. After the first day’s ride you spend the night in dorms or tents at the Mass Maritime Academy on the mainland side of the Bourne Bridge, then get up in the dark the next morning to race the clock to get to P-town before the last boat back to Boston takes off.

Crazy, right?

Nope. It’s awesome.

I started doing training rides every weekend to get in shape, the longest was 95 miles round trip from Weston, MA out to Wachusett Mountain and back. But I never did two long training rides in one weekend, let alone back-to-back centuries (cycling lingo for 100 miles). So I was not prepared for putting my sore butt on a dew-drenched saddle at 5am the second day of the PMC! The pain was soon forgotten, however, when I crossed the Bourne Bridge into a glorious sunrise and rode through the early morning mist into Sandwich, MA where a man stood at the end of his driveway in robe and slippers, holding a cup of coffee and a sign that said “I’m cancer-free, thanks to you.”

You see, the PMC is a fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. All along the route, I passed people like this who stood out in the hot sun, pouring rain, or early morning chill to thank me for riding. Hundreds of people volunteered at the many rest stops along the route and provided fantastic food, drinks, music – all of them thanking me for riding when I thought it more appropriate to be thanking them for making sure I didn’t collapse! One of my favorite parts of the ride every year (I did it for 5 years) was going by a summer camp somewhere around Dennis or Brewster on the “bicep” of the Cape where the rock wall paralleling the road was lined with kids holding up signs, cheering, ringing cowbells. Their enthusiasm kept me going the last 40+ miles to P-town.

Between those fan encounters, however, there were many solitary miles of me on my bike, with my thoughts. Lots of time to think about how the pain in my butt…and legs and neck and hands…was nothing compared to cancer. It was humbling and inspiring.

When I first started riding the PMC, the minimum fundraising amount was around $1,200 per rider. It increased every year, and by my fifth year was $3,500 (it’s now anywhere from $4,500-$7,500 depending on when you register). Each year I tapped my friends, family and co-workers who generously supported me but it just kept getting harder as the amount got higher every year, and in the fifth year I ended up having to put a big chunk on my credit card because I missed the target.

Now, I know this is a fundraiser for a very good cause and the goal is to raise as much money as possible, but after four or five years of raising more and more money…and watching all the hoopla over the Heavy Hitters, many of whom raise $10,000+, I started to feel like my “small” contribution didn’t matter. Like I wasn’t important to the PMC because I couldn’t bring in the big donations. That felt pretty rotten after so many years of feeling like I could help make a difference.

This is something we think about all the time with Milk Money. Louisa and I created Milk Money specifically to allow any Vermonter, regardless of net worth, the opportunity to participate in Vermont’s vibrant start-up community by investing in local businesses – often with investments as low as $250. This is a big part of our vision for Milk Money: to democratize (small “d”) capital for entrepreneurs and investors alike. To bring the 99% and the 1% together to help build a strong Vermont economy.

That’s what we mean by: Small Money. Big Change.

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