If there is one thing people in Sandpoint agree on, it is the willingness of the community to go above and beyond to help an organization or individual in need. And that is exactly what Mel Dick and others involved in the CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo bicycle ride are counting on this year.
“We are looking forward to another fabulous year,” said committee member, Elana Westphal, of the event set for June 20. “We already have over 50 sponsors.”
In its eighth year, the CHAFE 150 has raised approximately $60,000 for the Lake Pend Oreille School District and its programs. Previously put on by Panhandle Alliance for Education for it’s Ready! for Kindergarten Program, the ride was taken over by the Sandpoint Rotary club three years ago. “We wanted to continue the tradition of education,” said Dick of Rotary’s decision to donate the proceeds to the district’s programs that benefit children on the autism spectrum.
The CHAFE 150 is a 150-mile ride that takes in the area’s breathtaking landscape and has received accolades for being one of the most scenic rides in the country. There are break stops along the way hosted by various organizations including Lake Pend Oreille School District, the Angels Over Sandpoint, Sandpoint Rotary, Laughing Dog Brewery and an area church.
For several years the ride has also included an 80-mile route, and due to its growth in popularity and the desire to include more riders of various skill levels, last year CHAFE 150 organizers added a 30-mile ride. The youngest competitor was then 6-year-old Taylor Ailport who successfully completed the journey. Her enthusiasm has inspired others her age to take up the challenge this year.
“We have a system to make sure she is safe on the road,” said her mom, Lisa, who rides along with Taylor, adding that Taylor is setting her sights on the 80-mile ride in the near future.
Organizers stress that the ride, while timed, is just that — a ride and not a race. And it’s not just locals who get involved. Last year there were participants from places such as Maine, Florida, New England, San Diego and Vancouver.
“We have room for 500 riders, and we’ve been in the neighborhood of 400 recently,” said Dick.
The registration fees are $75 for the 150 and 80-mile rides and $45 for the 30-mile ride. “We also ask each rider to raise a minimum of $50,” said Westphal. But that never seems to be a problem as many of the riders are competitive both on and off the bike. “We already have someone who has raised nearly $4,000,” said Westphal, who adds that they have individual awards for the top fundraisers. For those who raise over $4,000, there are prizes that include a bicycle valued at $1,500. There are also prizes awarded at the $1,000, $500 and $250 levels.
For many, the driving force to donate is that 100 percent of the money raised stays local, with the cost of the ride being covered by sponsorships. And the need is great.
“According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism,” said Dick. “And it’s five times more common in boys.”
With the money raised at the CHAFE 150, Lake Pend Oreille School District has been able to fund new programs for those on the autism spectrum. And that is a welcomed relief to families.
According to Dr. Joy Jansen, the Director of Special Services for Lake Pend Oreille School District, there are over 100 families in the district who have benefited from the funds donated.
Dr. Jansen said last year they used those funds to structure a foundation to build upon in the future; one that can be easily sustained. An important part of the process was to form an Autism Resource Team (ART) in each building. The team consists of a special educator, general educator, a speech and language therapist and a physical therapist. “It’s more efficient to have a team within the building to work with the teachers and those who interact with the children,” said Jansen, adding that there are school districts that pay for these kinds of resources.
But it is not just the school programs that benefit; the entire town receives an economic benefit from the event. “Sandpoint is becoming known for this ride in the biking community,” said Westphal. Those who come from out of town to participate eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels and shop at our local stores.
If you want to join in the fun on June 20, there will be an after party at City Beach that hosted by Trinity at City Beach, and the entire community is welcome. For more information or to donate, log onto www.chafe150.org.