Over the Hill Gang leads record fundraising effort ahead of Biking the Boat charity ride
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The bar is still filling up.
After 3 p.m. Tuesday, the STARS Biking the Boat fundraising bar read $68,005 raised on a goal $75,000. Five days ahead of the charity ride, 90% of the donation goal had been met.
The goal is the loftiest ever set by Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports — STARS — through nine years of hosting the charity ride, and the funds raised have already surpassed the $62,000 raised last year.
“I think we’ve had time to reach out to people who have been past participants and get them to start fundraising earlier,” STARS Director of Development Betsy Bauer said. “Also a number of community businesses stepped up to be sponsors this year, so our sponsorship revenue has increased.”
The ride will start and finish at West Lincoln Park on Saturday, Sept. 21, with cyclists completing one of three courses, ranging from 5 to 55 miles long. The money raised benefits recreational programs for people with cognitive and physical disabilities, such as injured veterans or people with autism.
STARS was formed in 2006 to provide winter programs and equipment, but two years later, it expanded to offer summer programming as well. The group has grown over the years, helping to ensure that Steamboat is an inclusive active community.
About 14% of the cyclists on Saturday will be adaptive riders, so people will be riding alongside the people they are benefiting with their donations.
What: STARS Biking the Boat charity ride
When: Saturday, Sept. 21
Where: West Lincoln Park
55-mile: 8:30 a.m.
20-mile: 10 a.m.
5-mile: 11 a.m.
“It’s always incredibly inspiring to go out and ride with our adaptive athletes,” Bauer said.
One team, a partnership between The Renegades and the Over the Hill Gang, accounts for $12,800, nearly a fifth of the money raised.
The Over the Hill Gang is composed of active people 50 or older, who enjoy going over hills, whether it be on skis or wheels. The Renegades were a group of slightly-speedier bike riders who split off from the Over the Hill Gang a few years ago. Now, there are people who are members of both.
The team didn’t organize a mass fundraiser of any sorts. Instead, the money is a compilation of dozens of individual donations.
“Part of the motivation is to put in enough money, so that we can get a jersey out of it, too,” Over the Hill Gang President Cindy Kinnear said. “If you donate $250, you get the free jersey. My husband did that.”
Kinnear said perhaps in the future, the Over the Hill Gang might host a bigger group fundraiser.
“At this point, we haven’t yet,” Kinnear said. “We’re still working on building the Over the Hill Gang, and we don’t want the reputation that we’re a bunch of old farts.”
Some of the absolutely-not-old farts will participate in the 20-mile ride, while others will embark on the 55-mile ride. The longer of the two brings riders to 20 Mile Road between Oak Creek and Hayden and up the locally-famous corkscrew and three sisters climb.
Jack Ferguson, 76, is signed up for the 55-mile ride, but depending on how he and other riders feel the morning of, he might opt to complete the 20-mile scenic route.
He said he’s participated in the charity ride for most of the years it’s been around, and the Over the Hill Gang is regularly a top contributor to the ride.
“We get good participation. Quite a few of the members not only ride in the event, but if they’re not here in town or can’t ride for some reason, they go ahead and contribute,” Ferguson said.
For members of the Over the Hill Gang, the STARS fundraiser is close to home, as some members of the group have been aided by the funds and classes to help teach adaptive athletes.
One woman in the group received lessons last year with her husband to learn to ski despite having no vision in her left eye.
“She and her, now, husband — she’s 77, he’s 81 — they just got married last year; it’s so cute,” Bauer said. “They have a tandem bike, so she can ride a bike, and he can lead. But STARS, they trained him to be able to have her follow him, so she can get out and ski, also. I think that’s cool that something like that, where somebody might give up and quit — she’s 77 and can say, ‘Yup, I want to ski.’”
Keeping donations in the community is important to members of the Over the Hill Gang, who contribute to many other programs in town throughout the year.
“This is true I would say for all the giving the Gang has done — is try and keep it within the community,” Ferguson said.
By Wednesday afternoon, the bar read $69,510, hinting that STARS could meet its goal ahead of Saturday’s ride.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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In an effort to connect better with their voters, Steamboat Springs City Council members will begin tabling at Ski Free Sundays, which are every Sunday at Howelsen Hill.