More Than a Race

By Beacon Staff

When the Flathead Youth Home began holding a multi-sport relay as a fundraiser 10 years ago, it was a slightly offbeat idea at the time. And that was exactly the point for Jenae Schmautz, who worked at the emergency youth shelter and came up with the idea of the Glacier Challenge with her husband Will.

The valley had enough silent auctions and banquets. What it needed, the Schmautzes thought, was a fun race – something original that could stand out among the many other fundraisers.

Ten years later, it’s apparent that the Schmautzes’ outside-the-box thinking has worked out nicely for the Flathead Youth Home. The Glacier Challenge attracted more than 400 competitors last year and race director Hannah Plumb is hoping to get as many as 600 participants for this year’s 10-year anniversary race, held July 14 in Whitefish.

Plumb is accepting registrations now and encourages participants to sign up early for the race. If they want a T-shirt, they must register before June 18.

“It’s a fun event and a it’s a good way to let people know about (the Flathead Youth Home),” Plumb, the home’s development coordinator, said.

The Flathead Youth Home is an emergency shelter for kids in crisis, providing short-term housing for up to eight kids at a time between the ages of 10 and 18. It also provides longer-term group care. The kids may be runaways, dealing with abuse at home, struggling with chemical dependency or experiencing other crises. The home, located in Kalispell, is open 24 hours a day year round.

In its 10 years, the Glacier Challenge has become a major and vital fundraiser for the youth home. Racer entry fees are tax-deductible donations that benefit the youth home.

The multi-sport race features six legs covering nearly 50 miles in and around Whitefish. Most participants form teams, though the solo division is growing rapidly, Plumb said. There are two running legs, a kayaking leg, two road biking legs, a mountain biking leg and a canoe leg.

Steve Muller of Kalispell has participated in the race every year since its inception in 2003. He was on a team his first two years but the last seven he has competed in the solo division. He called the race a “gold standard” for the valley and has been pleased to watch it grow over the years.

“It’s just a unique event,” Muller said. “It’s grown so much and it’s a great way to support a good cause.”

In addition to the race on Saturday, there is a pre-race party on Friday night at Whitefish’s Riverside Park. Racers must pick up their packets at the Friday event, which is also a time for competitors to ask questions about the race and course.

There will be live music, beer from Great Northern Brewing Company and food from Qdoba. Great Northern Cycles has donated a bike to be raffled off at the party.

Plumb is also encouraging competitors to bring their families on race day. Qdoba will provide food and Nomad Global Communication Solutions will have one of its mobile command centers on hand displaying a retrospective photo slideshow to celebrate the event’s 10-year anniversary.

There will be activities for kids on race day, including a bouncy palace from the Fun Zone of Kalispell and an obstacle course by Flying Fish of Whitefish.

“We’re trying to make it a bring-the-family event,” Plumb said.

Will Schmautz, who originally conceived the idea of the Glacier Challenge with his wife, has fielded a team over the years that has been consistently unbeatable. Schmautz is the CEO of Nomad Global Communication Solutions and his Nomad team has dominated the male team division. Also, his brother Seth and Seth’s wife Sarah won the partner co-ed division last year.

Plumb is challenging teams to topple Nomad, perhaps providing some of the top-tier teams extra incentive to train hard for the July race.

But while there are only a handful of serious teams that could potentially challenge Nomad, there are many other participants who will simply be out to enjoy a fun community event and test their fitness. Plumb said the 10-year anniversary is shaping up to be memorable.

“It feels like there’s just a lot of good things happening this year and everything seems to be coming together,” Plumb said.

For more information, visit www.theglacierchallenge.com or call (406) 755-4622.

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