It is summer, and it is time to get out and enjoy the beautiful place in which we live. Whether it is a walk along the water, a hike in the mountains or a bike ride to take in the scenery, there is always something to entice us to be outside during these warm summer months.
Here in Sandpoint, there are also ways to couple your adventure with helping a good cause at the same time.
The CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo – June 16, 2018
What started as a 150-mile benefit bike ride, this increasingly popular event, which draws riders from all over the country, has rapidly grown as organizers do what they can to accommodate various levels of endurance. Shortly after its inception, the CHAFE 150 added an 80-mile half CHAFE, and about four years ago the 30-mile Fun Ride was added in hopes of bringing more participants to the event.
Initially, the CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo benefitted the Panhandle Alliance for Education's "Ready for Kindergarten" program to help parents support their children from age 0 to 5 prepare for kindergarten. When the Sandpoint Rotary Club took over the event from Panhandle Alliance for Education six years ago, they evaluated numerous causes that were selected by their members. The membership as a whole decided on an education theme with the emphasis to support students on the autism spectrum.
“Autism impacts approximately one in 68 children in the U.S. and one in 42 for boys,” said one of the organizers and Rotarian Mel Dick. This will be the last year that Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD) will be the beneficiary for this ride as Rotary is now in the process of choosing a cause or causes for the 2019 through 2021 rides.
One difference this year is that the rider registration fee for riders 16 years of age and younger has been reduced. “It’s $50 for the 80-mile and 150-mile rides and only $20 for the 30-mile route,” said Rotarian and committee member Elana Westphal. “The riders will receive all the same benefits.”
Elana said the oldest participant last year was 87 years old, and this year that same man plans on riding the 80-mile route again. The youngest rider last year was 7 years old and rode the 30-mile route.
Over the past five years, Sandpoint Rotary has raised more than $220,000 for those on the autism spectrum in LPOSD.
“The funds are used for social and emotional growth programs for all students at Lake Pend Oreille School District with an emphasis on those students on the autism spectrum,” said Mel, who adds that last year they had approximately 350 riders and expect to reach that goal again in 2018.
For years, the CHAFE 150 has been regarded as one of the most scenic rides in the country. According to Mel, feedback they continually receive includes comments about the scenic routes, the great rider breakfast, excellent rest stops and the best after-party of any ride people have participated in. Additional comments also reflect the ride jerseys as well as the amazing community support and sponsors.
For more information on this great event, log onto CHAFE150.org.
Celebrate Life Fun Run / Walk – August 11, 2018
Now in its 15th year, Celebrate Life recently announced that it will be the final year for the fun run to take place. But that does not mean this incredible organization is going away!
“As far as other fundraisers we will be doing, the Celebrate Life team of volunteer board members is discussing what our future events will be,” said Julie Walkington, who co-founded the event with her sister, Jenny Meyer, who has since passed away from cancer 10 years ago. “There are a lot of ideas; we just need to work on details, time of year and more. We aren't going anywhere, and we will continue to serve the community as we do now. We are just changing things up.”
Jenny organized the first Celebrate Life Fun Run / Walk 15 years ago and was able to attend the first few years. A young mother battling breast cancer, Jenny knew the value of a kind gesture to someone who, like her, was struggling each day, and she wanted to do what she could to raise funds to help make their lives a little bit easier. With assistance from her sister Julie and Julie’s friend January, both of whom are nurses, the three began what has been a tradition for many each August. Since its inception, Celebrate Life has raised more than $275,000 to benefit people in the community who face life-threatening illnesses, most of whom are battling cancer. Many of the ways they have done so have been heart warming. Julie shares that they have assisted people by helping with airfare to bring families together one last time; helped fund a celebration party for one who has won the battle against cancer; paid for special equipment so individuals can continue lifelong hobbies; arranged to have flowers sent to a loved one on an anniversary when those facing the end of life know they won’t see that anniversary; provided travel accommodations and monetary assistance to those seeking specialized cancer treatment not available locally; assisted with paying for medications and much more.
While there are many stories of help provided over the years, Julie said that what stands out most in her mind is how amazing it is to be able to do what they can for those affected by cancer. “We feel so honored to be able to provide some small part of assistance, provide a simple gesture with no strings attached, in their journey,” said Julie, who adds that the organization could not exist without the support from the amazing and generous community.
“Because Jenny went through the journey herself, her insight to me was invaluable—simple gestures, no strings attached,” said Julie. “To be able to just give to those in our community and their families who face a cancer diagnosis is such an amazing feeling.”
When asked what she thinks Jenny would say of what Celebrate Life has accomplished, Julie responded, “I think, and I certainly hope, she would be proud—proud of what her vision has become, proud that something positive can come from something not so positive. She was one to always focus on the good in everything.”
Julie, like many in this community who were blessed to know Jenny, wish she could be here to see the ripple effect of Jenny’s vision.
“It truly has touched so many lives in our community,” said Julie. “I feel honored to carryout her vision, and I get to do it with a fabulous group of friends who volunteer their time to see this through with me each year.”
Jenny’s vision was to keep the event simple, yet meaningful, while making a big impact. “She always told me to ‘keep it simple’ and to make sure those going through the cancer journey could participate.”Julie, her family and friends and even those who did not know Jenny have worked tirelessly over the last 15 years while staying true to her wishes and honoring her memory in doing so. Even if it’s the last year for this event, stay tuned because Celebrate Life will continue to bless those in our community.
For more information on how you can participate in this year’s event, go to CelebrateLifeFunRunWalk.org. You can also follow links on that site to donate year round. Checks can be made out to Celebrate Life, P.O.Box 144, Ponderay, ID 83852.