Fifty-Five Miles for the Flathead Home

By Beacon Staff

At last year’s Glacier Challenge, Hannah Plumb was a buoy. This year she’s the boss.

Plumb is head coordinator for the Glacier Challenge, a 55-mile multi-sport race that’s perennially the biggest fundraiser for the Flathead Attention Home, a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for young people who are at risk or who face family crises. The race begins at 7 a.m. on July 7 at Whitefish’s Riverside Park.

Plumb sat in a boat for four hours at last year’s Glacier Challenge, serving as a buoy to mark the turnaround point for kayakers. This year she has worked for months with limited funds to organize the race. She anticipates the biggest turnout yet in the event’s five-year existence, which is great not only for financial reasons, she said, but for getting the word out about FAH as well.

“We’ve been here for 10 years and most people don’t even know about us,” she said.

FAH cares for runaways, kids with bad family situations and teens with chemical dependency problems, among others. It houses up to eight kids at a time between ages 10 and 18. It is open year-round, 24 hours a day, and is part of a larger Missoula-based group called Youth Homes.

Lance Issak, program director at FAH, said he expects this year’s Glacier Challenge to bring in a net profit of between $10,000 and $12,000, much needed money for an organization with an annual $50,000 deficit.

The race is a refreshing option for people who are used to traditional fundraisers like silent auctions, which can get old, Plumb said.

“There’s so many non-profits in the valley,” she said. “People are weary (of fundraisers).”

The race has three categories: individual, couple and team. The couple category is new. Last year, Plumb said, there were 34 teams. This year, she expects about 45 teams, as well as individuals and couples. Registration is $50 for solo racers, $100 for couples and $210 for teams, which can have up to seven members. She’ll accept registrations up until the day of the race.

The race begins with a 10-kilometer run. The next leg is a 7-mile canoe paddle, followed by a 27-mile road bike trek. In the middle of the road bike ride is an 8-mile mountain bike leg. Then racers hop in a kayak for a 2.5-mile excursion that leads to the final leg of the challenge, a 5-kilometer run..

Competitors usually finish in four to seven hours. Those who participate as individuals, Plumb said, are generally well-trained athletes, but those on teams needn’t be.

“If you’re not an intense athlete,” she said. “You can still do it.”

Participants must bring their own equipment – bikes, kayaks, etc. If people need to rent equipment, they can get discounts at various outdoors stores if they say it’s for the Glacier Challenge.

Prizes are handed out to first-place winners and contestants with the fastest times in individual legs. Among the prizes are a dog sled ride for two, a tandem jump at Skydive Lost Prairie and a two-night stay at Big Mountain with $105 spending cash.

There will be live music and food, exciting news for contestants like Fowler Bartholomew. Bartholomew, who has participated in two other Glacier Challenges, said this year’s event should be the best yet.

“It’s like a real party,” she said. “(Hannah) is really going all out on it.”