Merle Schotanus, a retired U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Officer and a two-time cancer survivor, has cycled what he calls the “Octogenarian 20” for the past 11 years, and he walked The Prouty last year. Participants in The Prouty's two-day event may bike, walk, row or golf to raise funds that support the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC). After the first time he biked in 2006, Merle was so enthusiastic about The Prouty that he founded a team in his town of Grantham. This year, he was named honorary co-chair of the 37th Prouty.
Why do you Prouty?
I Prouty because I’m a two-time cancer survivor. I’m very serious about raising research money. It was the NCCC that brought me back from that dreaded disease, and I want to help bring others back. The energy of The Prouty is contagious, in my opinion. They are passionate about raising money to fund research.
What was your favorite Prouty moment?
In 2014, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I lost 20 percent my lung capacity after the operation. Eight months later, I rode The Prouty on an electric bike while carrying supplemental oxygen. If you know the course around Hanover, there are a couple of nasty upgrades to negotiate. In the 10 years I had ridden The Prouty, I had never been able to ride the Chieftain Hill. I would have to dismount and push my bike. With the extra oxygen and the electric bike, I did. I thought I died and gone to heaven! I had negotiated the hill that had eluded me for 10 years.
How else do you participate in The Prouty?
I have been the captain of the Grantham Mountaineers Prouty Team for 11 years. When we founded the team in 2008 with 10 members, and we raised $5,000. Last year, our team came in fourth for fundraising, and our 66 members raised $111,823. We were pretty proud of that accomplishment. I’m confident that we can do it again and even surpass what we raised. Success, like enthusiasm, is contagious.
I’m also the honorary co-chair of this year’s Prouty. As co-chair, I’m the head cheerleader. I pay attention to how to help The Prouty wherever they might need me, and I will also make a short speech during the kick-off party on Thursday, April 26th.
Where do you live?
On March 15, we moved to Harvest Hill, an assisted living community in Lebanon. My wife’s cognitive health is declining, and we needed to move into a place where we can have help available at all times. Harvest Hill has a wonderful community, great staff, and outstanding food. We haven’t run out of things to do.
Will you ride again this year?
I just consigned my electric bike at Omer's and Bob's. My wife and I are going to walk The Prouty, since we both have developed balance problems, but it won’t temper our enthusiasm for raising money and supporting The Prouty!