A youth group leader looking for a fund-raising project is likely to think in terms of concession sales, booths at a local street fair, or maybe even a carnival if the group is big enough to handle one.
But not many youth leaders would commit to taking a personal passion and turn it into a unique fundraiser for their youth group, and also for an essential, local volunteer first responder organization.
But, helping out the Cedaredge Boy Scout Troop 497 and the Delta County Search and Rescue unit (SAR) was the vision of race partners Rick Schaefer, Troop 497 Scoutmaster, and Phil Berghouser. The two men took on the daunting task of organizing a cross country mountain bike relay race along 15 miles of old jeep trail on the Uncompahgre Plateau in September with the goal of helping two worthy local organizations.
That’s how the first (hopefully annual) “12 Hours Behind the Prison” race was born.
Schaefer has helped his scouts organize mountain bike outings to Rabbit Valley and other sites as a regular part of their Scout activities for several years.
But taking on the task of setting up, publicizing and staging an actual race is the kind of effort that only people who are truly dedicated to the sport, or who are true believers in the importance of a cause, would ever undertake.
Schaefer and Berghouser used a professional-looking website to help with their event pre-publicity. The deltabike
race.com site informed visitors: “What is the 12 Hours Behind the Prison? It is a 12-hour team relay mountain bike race to be held Sept. 19, 2009. The race is being put on as a fundraiser for Boy Scout Troop 497 of Cedaredge and Delta County Search and Rescue.
“The race is being held along old Jeep trails on BLM land just west of Delta. The course is about 15 miles long with about 1,600 feet of climbing.” The race staging area and course were located off of Sawmill Mesa Cutoff Road past the Delta Correctional Facility.
The “behind the prison” theme gave the race a unique flavor and identity. For some added fun, race-themed promotional graphics included chain link fencing, strands of barbed wire, concertina wire and handcuffs.
Schaefer and Berghouser also pitched the event as a warm-up for the popular 24 Hours of Moab race that took place about three weeks afterward.
From the very first glimmer of inspiration that staging a mountain bike race fundraiser would even be possible, through all of the planning and work, and on to the last loading bikes and gear for the final late evening trip back home, staging a 12-hour mountain bike relay race takes skills of organization and communication way beyond the ordinary.
There is that first moment when a race director finally convinces himself that the project can be done, and he can do it. Then the real work begins.
You have to find at least a few other people who will share the vision.
You have to begin making endless lists of “things to do” and people to contact.
There are meetings and phone discussions where tasks are assigned and helpers step forward.
There are brainstorming sessions, and always problems to overcome.
You have to get permission through the BLM’s permitting process to stage the race on their lands.
You have to start lining up sponsors who are willing to help support the project with cash and/or goods and services.
There is the delicate matter of convincing those sponsors that the publicity you give them will be worth their contributions, and that your fund raiser’s cause is worthy of their support.
There is, of course the need in this day and age for a race website. You may have to find people to design and maintain your website.
You need to try and get as much free publicity as possible through the biking community and traditional media.
There have to be the incentives and giveaways for racers and fans who you hope will show up for the event.
You need to mark the course for riders to follow and there need to be prizes for finishers.
You have to get a canopy for shelter and a scorer’s table set up to keep track of the racers’ progress.
You need banners and music and a good sound system playing it at the start/finish line.
There have to be concessions available to feed unknown numbers of guests arriving at the race site miles away from town.
There need to be volunteers to flip the burgers and turn the dogs when folks get hungry.
You need to have tee-shirts. They need to be cool looking tee-shirts with professional graphics that carry your sponsors’ names and logos on the back.
Most importantly, you need to have the shared vision and support from at least a few friends who are willing to shoulder the burdens of their own time and effort to help get your race event off the ground in its first year. Schaefer and Berghouser got that from Scouts and their parents, from work associates, SAR volunteers and spouses.
Schaefer and Berghouser were successful in getting a list of recognizable names to be local sponsors. In addition to Troop 497 and SAR, the following businesses joined in to help support the effort: Deveto’s, REI, TDS, WeatherPort, Hammer Nutrition, Rapid Creek Cycles of Palisade, the Bike Shop of Grand Junction, and the Bank Centers of Delta, Surface Creek and the North Fork Valley. Delta’s Water Jets West donated the first-place trophy — a unique pierced engraving executed on a bicycle chain sprocket.
The proud owner of that trophy is first place race finisher Jeff Hemperley who in the 12 hours of racing completed eight full laps. That considerable feat took him 11 hours and 35 minutes. In the process he endured 13,200 feet of vertical climbing from the 7 a.m. race start until the 7 p.m. finish.
Schaefer and Berghouser can’t say for sure if they will be able to stage the event again next year. But the first year’s event was a true success. Perhaps the best testimony to that is an e-mail Schaefer received from racer Jason Whitesides following the event.
“Hey, great event! Please do it again next year and I will try and bring everyone I know to help the numbers.
“All those folks that helped out deserve a big thanks, it was a very well put together and organized race. Keep up the good work and hopefully we will see you next year. Just a quick list of things I really liked about your event: #1, First and foremost a great cause; #2, The friendliness of the race organizers; #3, All the smiling faces and cheers of the supporters; #4 Very well-marked course; #5, Great course, good climbs and fast descents; #6 Just downright a good time.”
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