Park-2-Park Montana bike riders and support staff pause on the banks of the Yellowstone River north of Gardiner as they near the completion of their ride across Montana in early September. The group of more than 40 riders pedaled almost 400 miles from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park in support of CASA of Montana during the 2007 ride.
Purple Wave of Bikers Raise Funds for CASA
A sea of purple jerseys rode through Gardiner and flowed through the arch at Yellowstone Park Sept. 7th, as more than 40 Park-2-Park Montana riders finished their 400-mile bike ride with cheering family members and supporters.
"It was a huge success," said Executive Director Ellen M. Bush. "We expect to raise more than $35,000 for CASA programs in Montana. Court Appointed Special Advocates are trained volunteers who advocated for children in the state's abuse and neglect system through no fault of their own. More than 400 volunteers are speaking out for 1,000 children.
The CASA theme was repeated on the custom purple jersey with the side panels reading "Speak Up For A Child." Riders who raised more than $750 were awarded a 2007 Park-2-Park jersey. More than 100 people gathered for the celebration dinner Sept. 7 at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Gardiner.
The riders included a 16-year-old high school student and a 75-year-old Helena man, as well as men and women from across Montana and from three other states. A Billings school resource officer and a Whitefish woman were top fund raisers.
The cyclists include two doctors, a nursing professor, several law enforcement officers and a range of people who believe in riding for a cause. The riders come from Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington state, as well as Butte, Bozeman, Dillon, Helena, Great Falls, Box Elder, Corvallis, Billings, Livingston, the Flathead Valley and Sheridan.
Dr. Sharon Hecker isn't your average cardiologist. Outside of her busy life as an on-call cardiologist at Rocky Mountain Clinic in Butte, Hecker is an avid mountain biker who rides with her husband, friend Janet Axelson, and other friends in the Highlands Cycling Club. Over the years Hecker has progressed from biking only a few miles to doing longer, multi-day, 100-mile trips and even competing in a 24-hour team relay with Axelson and others.
Detective Mary Ann Rangitsch of Bozeman is no stranger to spending her time helping others. In addition to conducting forensic interviews with children who have been victimized, Rangitsch also conducts mountain bike officer training courses, both as part of her job with the Bozeman Police Department. Come September 3rd, she combined these areas of specialization as one a group of 40 riders raising awareness for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) by biking across the state.
Rangitsch, who first heard about the ride through an office posting, was also encouraged by friend and fellow mountain bike instructor Joe Bryce of Billings, who also participated.
The youngest rider is Courtney White, a 16-year-old Corvallis high school student who is taking off a week from school to support teenagers in foster care. Jens Jensen is the senior rider at age 75 and the volunteer logistics coordinator.
The third annual Park-2-Park Montana ride took cyclists from St. Mary - on the eastern side of Glacier National Park - through spectacular scenery down along US 89 through Dupuyer, Choteau, Great Falls, White Sulphur Springs and Livingston and concluded at Gardiner near Yellowstone National Park.
The route is approximately 395 miles, with daily ride distances of 55-108 miles. The ride began at the St. Mary's/ East Glacier KOA campground in St. Mary. Local CASA programs, including CASA for Kids (Kalispell), Great Falls CASA CAN, Gallatin County CASA/GAL and 6th Judicial CASA in Livingston provide meals, snacks and support services for the riders as they come through their area.
This year CASA had the help of four AmeriCorps VISTA members, including bike rider Gary Nowell in Great Falls and Carin McClain in Helena. All are serving to help CASA organizations build capacity and sustainability so they can continue to support the volunteer Guardians Ad Litem.
Carin McClain, a second term VISTA is from Wisconsin, serves the Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD). She is working on Asset Development and coordinating VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites in credit unions across Montana. This involves volunteer recruitment and training, site coordination, media outreach and tax preparation.
Sponsors this year included: ALPS Professional Services and Billings-based Cardio Systems as Platinum sponsors with Alan Nicholson Inc. of Helena, the Montana Credit Union Network, Montana Travel Management of Kalispell, Hammer Nutrition, the St. Mary/East Glacier KOA, All American Pharmaceutical and Natural Foods Corp., JCT Construction, and Bank of the Rockies as Gold Sponsors. Silver sponsors included: BlueCross BlueShield, New West Health Plans, Valley Bank, AirWorks, the Daily Inter Lake, First Interstate Bank, Ford Motors of Helena, Montana Marketing and The Neighborhood Office. Other sponsors included Timber Trails of Livingston, Big Sky Cycling of Helena and Great Divide Cyclery of Helena.
Special thanks to the local CASA programs who helped with ride coordination, meals, support and logistics. Our CASA sponsors included: Front Range CASA/GAL, CASA CAN of Great Falls, 6th Judicial CASA of Livingston, CASA for Kids - Kalispell, Gallatin County CASA/GAL Program, Yellowstone CASA and CASA - Advocates for Kids (Helena).