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Iraq War Veteran's Extreme Ride to Aid Kadlec Pediatric Center

By Michelle Dupler, Herald staff writer 

Chris Pumroy served two tours of duty in Iraq and lost his mother to cancer in 2006, but the most physical struggle of his life may be yet to come when he tackles a nonstop 48-hour, 508-mile bike race through the brutal terrain of Death Valley, Calif.

He has never entered a race like the Furnace Creek 508, and he's anxious about the notorious Death Valley heat, the 35,000-foot elevation gain during 10 mountain climbs and staying fueled and hydrated on the desolate route, but he's willing to take the pain to benefit a good cause.

Pumroy, of Kennewick, is making the extreme ride to raise money for Kadlec Regional Medical Center's Don & Lori Watts Pediatric Center. 

He became inspired to raise money to help pediatric patients while visiting his mother at the University of Washington Medical Center while she underwent treatment for leukemia prior to her death.

He said he'd walk past children with cancer and his heart would break.

"I think the worst thing -- even harder than seeing my mom sick -- was seeing kids that were sick up there," Pumroy said.

He'd talk to their parents, who were struggling to keep up with the bills while their children were dying. Some were being hounded by creditors and were on the verge of bankruptcy.

"It was like adding insult to injury," he said. "I always wanted to do something to give back."

But at the time, Pumroy not only was coping with his mother's illness but also was between tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps First Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion and wasn't in a position to start a charity.

After he left the Marines, he came to the Tri-Cities, where he enrolled in college and took a job at Energy Northwest. Then he started thinking about what he could do to help the kinds of children who had tugged at his heart in Seattle.

"I wanted to raise money and make a really big impact," Pumroy said. "I looked at traditional methods -- golf tournaments and car washes. They didn't fit my personality. I thought there had to be a better way."

He decided to enter raise money by entering endurance races, because that seemed to honor the experiences of children battling lengthy illnesses such as cancer.

"Cancer is a painful disease, a painful process, and the outcome is uncertain," he said. "You have to have a lot of heart to go through that battle. I think endurance events are similar. They're painful and take a lot of commitment to train and a lot of pain when you do it. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you don't know how it will turn out."

Pumroy entered the Furnace Creek 508 with a goal to raise $10,000, and met that in one donation when Steve Anderson, vice president and chief operating officer for HAPO Credit Union, heard his story.

"He has a pretty compelling story," Anderson said. "It's pretty hard not to be moved by it. When he gave his talk last Thursday, I had to fight back the tears."

Anderson said it took about 15 seconds for him to decide that HAPO would make a donation.

Pumroy now has set a new goal to raise $75,000. All money goes directly to the Kadlec Foundation for the pediatric center, he said.

"I don't touch a penny of the donations," he said.

The race is Oct. 4-6. Donors can donate per mile or a fixed amount. Donations can be made at kadlecfoundation.org or by calling 942-2661.