Finding jobs in the current economic climate is tough for anybody, but for those with disabilities, it’s simply one more challenge. Flathead Industries is there to help, and through its annual Climb Big Mountain fundraiser, the greater community can help too.
The 20th annual Climb Big Mountain is scheduled for July 17 at Whitefish Mountain Resort. It is the largest fundraiser of the year for Flathead Industries, a nonprofit that offers assistance for people with disabilities.
At Flathead Industries, employment specialists help residents with disabilities find work, either at an outside employer or through the organization itself. Tom Murphy, a vocational specialist, said Flathead Industries employs more than 120 workers.
“Flathead Industries is kind of like an invisible giant,” Murphy said. “We’re one of the biggest employers in the valley and most people don’t know that.”
Since 1973, Flathead Industries has worked to create opportunities for people with disabilities. The nonprofit provides vocational rehabilitation, recreational services, residential assistance and community support, today serving hundreds across Northwest Montana.
The organization also runs various business operations, including three thrift stores and production areas where a wide variety of tasks are performed, often as paid jobs for local businesses. These jobs include packaging, towel folding, paper shredding and more. A number of community-based employment options are also offered.
Murphy said Flathead Industries is also working on a program called “students in transition,” in which the organization will help students with disabilities from local high schools after they graduate.
“There are 246 students who are going to hit our community and not be prepared,” Murphy said. “We’re going to prepare them.”
One way Flathead Industries is able to operate at the level it does is through the funds it raises at the annual Climb Big Mountain. Participants in Climb Big Mountain choose to either hike 3.8 miles up Danny On Memorial Trail or mountain bike five miles up the Summit Trail at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
The event is not a race and people can climb at the pace they prefer. Rest stops are offered for hikers but not for mountain bikers. A free lunch is offered at the Summit House. There will also be a drawing for prizes. Then the participants can enjoy a scenic ride down the mountain.
Cost of registration is $30 per person. Teams of eight or more get shirts with their team logos, which are delivered prior to the event so they can be worn on the climb. Registration costs $240 for a team of eight, and $30 per person for each additional member.
People who wish to contribute but don’t want to scale the mountain can donate by purchasing shirts, sports packs and coffee mugs. Also, there is an option for “I’d rather be golfing than climbing,” which costs $60 for 18 holes of golf. Certificates are available from Glacier View, Village Greens, Whitefish Lake, Buffalo Hills and Meadow Lake courses.
Claudette Vance, rehabilitation director for Flathead Industries, said the event drew between 350 and 400 participants last year. She’s hoping for 600 this summer.
For last year’s event, Flathead Industries held an inaugural contest at local high schools to find a winning design for Climb Big Mountain’s logo. The organization received numerous entries from Flathead and Glacier high schools, as it did again this year.
The winning design for this year’s event comes from Ace Chapman, a recent graduate of Glacier High School. Chapman was awarded $250, Murphy said.
Check-in for Climb Big Mountain is between 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the morning of July 17 at Ed & Mully’s Smokehouse. Participants are asked to register by July 9.
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