John F. Russell: Riding for Kasey Jo |

John F. Russell: Riding for Kasey Jo

— When you first hear Kasey Jo Walker Warner’s story, it will make you sad and then mad. I wish the story was uncommon, but unfortunately it’s all too common.

That’s why her cousin, Kurt Castor, will embrace the pain that her family in Arapahoe, Neb., must feel every day, by attempting a 225-mile bike journey this summer from Steamboat Springs to New Raymer, where Kasey Jo was born and raised. He hopes it will bring attention to her death and raise money for scholarships to pay for her two young daughters’ future college education.

Castor, who lives in Steamboat Springs and is a lift maintenance mechanic at the Steamboat Ski Area, told me about the tragic accident the other day. He described Kasey Jo as a loving mother, a good wife and valuable member of her family and community. It seemed like she had everything going for her.

That was until she crossed paths with Herchel Huff last October, along a country road near her ranch in Nebraska. Kasey Jo was jogging along the road with her 3-year-old daughter, who was following her mother on a small toy electric four-wheeler. When they saw the car approaching, Kasey Jo pulled her daughter to the side of the road, hoping the car would pass without incident.

It didn’t.

In the final moments of her young life, the 28-year-old mother threw her daughter clear of the oncoming car, but she couldn’t get out of the way. The car struck and killed her. A rancher in a nearby field called 911, and Gentry Clare escaped serious injury. Huff was later arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

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As a reporter, I think I’ve written about 100 stories about people who ride their bikes to raise money and awareness for all kinds of good causes.

But Kurt’s journey is different. It’s personal, it’s important, and it demonstrates just how quickly a life can change.

Kurt will ride his bike over Rabbit Ears and Cameron passes to honor his cousin and make a difference in the lives of the two children she left behind. The ride’s first two days will cover stretches from Steamboat Springs to Walden to Fort Collins. The third day will be for rest, and on the fourth day, the ride will take Kurt and his friends from Fort Collins to New Raymer. The journey is from July 22 to 25.

I can’t think of a better reason to ride a bike to New Raymer than these two girls.

The money Kurt raises will be put into scholarships for Gentry Clare Warner and Berkley Jo Warner, who was 1 1/2 at the time of the accident.

Kasey Jo also leaves behind her husband, Dan, and a void that can’t be filled. Kurt is hoping to raise $15,000 that will be split into two scholarship funds at the First Central Bank in Arapahoe, Neb. The money will never fill the void, but hopefully it can help these two girls get a jump on their future. Hopefully Huff, who had faced three DUI charges before he hit Kasey Jo, will spend his future behind bars.

For those who want more information, or might want to contribute to the girls’ future, call Kurt at 846-2087.