A Relay for Kids in Crisis

By Beacon Staff

A basic checklist of items found at an outdoor relay race in Montana might include mountain bikes, running shoes and kayaks.

But at the Glacier Challenge, the list is a bit more advanced: a mobile command center, chip technology and a large display screen. Throw in some live music and Mexican food, and the Glacier Challenge becomes part race, part technology showcase and part fiesta.

The Glacier Challenge is the Flathead Youth Home’s primary fundraiser. Now in its eighth year, the roughly 50-mile race has become one of the valley’s premiere fundraising – and outdoor racing – activities of the summer.

Last year, about 300 participants, including 67 teams, registered for the multi-sport relay. This year, race director Hannah Plumb is hoping for more participants, which would make the event the biggest to date.

“There’s a lot of talk and buzz about it,” Plumb said.

The Glacier Challenge is scheduled for Saturday, July 10, 2010, beginning at Riverside Park in Whitefish and running through town. The relay has categories for individuals, couples and teams. Registration is $75 per solo racer; $125 per couple (not limited to gender combination); $250 per team; and $350 per corporate team.

Erica Ruta, seen on a trail near her home in Happy Valley, is running the 4k for the Whitefish Therapy team in this year’s Glacier Challenge.

Deadline for registration is Friday, June 25, but Plumb said “a ton of people” usually sign up late. It’s tough for teams to get all of their members together before the deadline, she said. A late fee of $20 is tacked on after June 25. No entries will be accepted after July 8.

There are six legs to the race: a 10.8-kilometer run, kayaking, road biking, mountain biking, canoeing and a 4-kilometer run, totaling about 50 miles. Participants range from hardcore endurance athletes to folks simply looking to enjoy themselves and support a good cause.

Last summer’s race was the first to use a Nomad Technologies’ command center. This year, the command center will again be used to flash updates of the race on a screen, though with improved features, Plumb said.

With the help of high-tech timing equipment, times will be taken at transition points and finish lines, sent to the main computer at Riverside Park and continually updated on the Nomad screen.

Musician John Floridis will provide live music and serve as emcee, giving race announcements at Riverside Park to accompany the screen updates. Qdoba is serving Mexican food, and there will be a raffle and silent auction.

Also, professional photographer Scott Marksbury will again be onsite to take photos during the race. His photos will be displayed on the screen as well.

The Flathead Youth Home is an emergency shelter for youths in crisis, including runaways, children with problems at home, kids with chemical dependency problems and others. The shelter provides short-term housing for up to eight kids at a time, ages 10-18.

In May of last year, the youth home moved into a new location at the corner of Eighth Avenue East North and Oregon Street in Kalispell. The house is 5,600 square feet and has 10 bedrooms, along with a large living area, backyard and kitchen. While the shelter raises money through various avenues, its largest annual fundraiser is the Glacier Challenge.

Major sponsors for this year’s race are Bob Herron Insurance and Investments, Kalispell Daybreak Rotary Club, Qdoba, Hammer Nutrition, Glacier Dental Group and Don K Subaru. There are also a number of donation sponsors, including the group Run Whitefish, which has provided timing equipment.

Last year’s team winner was Whitefish-based River Design Group. The team will be back to defend its crown.

Ben Kingan, of the Whitefish Therapy team, said the race is a major summer highlight for the area. This will be his team’s second year participating.

“It’s awesome,” Kingan said. “Hannah does an awesome job, everything is run smooth and it’s just great.”