It started as an idea …
Ideas are powerful. Something as simple as a passing thought can become something huge that impacts our daily lives, or something small impacting the people in our neighborhood. When the idea is something that could positively impact a community, others are usually quick to rally behind it. There are examples all over the Northwest of how an idea can bring together people from all backgrounds and walks of life to find common ground and to better their surroundings; two of which you can be a part of and make an immediate impact.
CHAFE 150, Sandpoint, Idaho, June 15. CHAFE150.org
It started as a simple idea from a local accountant, pitched to a small group around a table; something fun that would help raise some funds for the local school district. The Panhandle Alliance for Education (PAFE) is a group that looks to raise additional private funds for public schools in order to support programs that are either underfunded or wouldn’t be available with the current budget. Current board president Geraldine Lewis recalls the day board member Brad Williams pitched the idea of a bike ride as both a way of generating donations and bringing awareness to the cause.
“There really were only about eight or nine of us conversing about ways to expand our group of private supporters for public education. We decided we had the right amount of elements and connections to make it work, so we decided to do it!” said Geraldine.
As with most initial events, PAFE was just hoping to break even the first ride and really focus on getting the word out. A clever name, CHAFE 150, an acronym for ‘Cycle Hard for Education’, was created, and the group went to work utilizing their local connections in the business community to seek out sponsorships and volunteers.
“Each of us was assigned a different task; someone in charge of the route, the marketing, the logistics, the food, and we just sort of figured it out as we went,” laughed Geraldine.
The first CHAFE 150 drew about 45 riders along with several volunteer groups like local cycling clubs, Boy Scouts and other nonprofits manning the aid stations. Brad’s idea was now realized, and with the help of community members banding together, it would surely continue.
More riders continued to sign up, and more volunteers offered their time to help out. The event continued to grow—and so did the support for the Panhandle Alliance for Education’s Ready for Kindergarten program; a program to help parents get their children ready to attend kindergarten from age 0 to 5. Money raised from this ride went directly to the program and benefited dozens of families in the area.
After five years of running the event, PAFE decided to pass it on to the Sandpoint Rotary, who would be better equipped and well connected to manage and operate the suddenly large annual event.
“The transition was so smooth, everyone recognizes the rotary name, the business support is already in place, and now it just grows and grows each year, which is great,” said Geraldine.
Mel Dick is co-chair of the CHAFE 150 alongside Brad, who continues to chair the event each year. Over the past seven years, the Sandpoint Rotary has increased the ridership participation and helped bring in title sponsors Timberline Helicopter and Ting, along with many other organizations like the Lake Pend Oreille School District, Angels Over Sandpoint, Friends of Scotchman Peaks and the YMCA.
“Well over 100 volunteers are involved day of the event, and our ride organizing committee works on the ride year-round,” said Mel.
The Rotary also realized they could attract more cyclists by adding additional ride distances. The first few years, only a 150-mile course was provided. Organizers decided to put in an 80-mile ‘Half CHAFE’ and, not long after, a 30-mile distance. This year, three more options are available including a 100-mile ride, 40-mile ride and 4-plus mile family fun ride. The CHAFE is a beautiful and challenging course that was just named No. 3 Best Charity Ride in the United States by Bicycling Magazine.
“Now the ride is a full Gran Fondo, with multiple routes and an after-ride party open to all riders, their friends, family and the community as a whole,” said Mel.
When the event was handed over to the rotary, proceeds continued to be presented to the school district. Over the past six years, $260,000 was donated to programs in support of students on the autism spectrum in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. This money has a huge impact for both students and families, as told by Sandpoint resident Patty Hutchens.
“When my son Brett was in first grade, he was diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction. It is a disorder that is on the autism spectrum. Although he is not autistic, he had to have some special accommodations in the classroom to help him focus and reach his full potential. The principal and the teacher had never even heard of this disorder, although it is very common. I paid for his speech and occupational therapists to come in and educate the principal and the teacher on this so they would have knowledge on the disorder and why special accommodations were needed to help him be successful. I often wondered what would happen with those families who did not have the resources to pay therapists to do that or just did not have the knowledge of their rights.
“Since CHAFE 150 has been contributing funds to the program in the school district, all teachers are now aware of not only this disorder but so many others related to autism and are also educated on what they can do to help students. It has been a gift to the community.”
The 2019-2021 rides will all continue to benefit the local school district, this time in support of after-school literacy programs and a new reading curriculum, according to Mel. The Sandpoint Rotary Club has also used funds for various community projects including a ‘teen room’ at the local library, a swing set and jungle gym at a playground, and funding for a book trust that funds monthly book purchases by students.
Race for a Soldier, Gig Harbor, Washington, September 15. RaceForASoldier.org
Born out of tremendous grief and a determined desire to help other veterans after her son overdosed in a Baltimore hotel room on March 7, 2009, just one day his discharge from the VA hospital, his mother, Leslie Mayne, decided the best way to honor Kyle’s memory and service to his country was to recruit family, friends and her community to help her create the first Race For A Soldier in 2011 in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Kyle was 27 and had served as an infantryman in Iraq. This was the beginning of a movement that is bringing hope and healing for our veterans that help them make peace with their past by developing programs that foster “post traumatic growth.” The Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation’s (PTSD) other events, Prayer Breakfast, Swing for A Soldier and Pull for a Soldier, have helped to raise awareness and support for the mission. Along the way, the foundation discovered a comprehensive wellness model that encompasses mind, body and spirit for our combat veterans and now includes our first responders. It is called Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes). The goal is to build a strong foundation of leaders here in the Pacific Northwest for its own Northwest Passage wellness retreat and programs.
Since 2011, the foundation has supported what it sees as effective and sustainable alternatives to the present resources offered for our veterans. The foundation plans to expand the impact and provide more of the same programs to veterans and first responders in the Pacific Northwest region. It is driven to seek and provide unwavering support for our returning warriors and first responders. Presently, the foundation runs a monthly huddle at the Heron’s Key retirement facility in Gig Harbor, conducts quarterly Mind, Body and Spirit workshops that focus on “post traumatic growth,” and has begun to align itself with the new Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Lakewood, Washington. In 2019, the foundation will continue to send veterans and first responders from this area to strength-based and proven innovative retreat programs. Leslie concentrates her energy and passion for those who serve, strengthening relationships and resources, as well as keeping her eyes open for more compassionate allies to come alongside her.
“After Kyle died, I felt the need to leave Gig Harbor and search for some answers and process my grief,” recalled Leslie.
That road trip ended up in South Texas, and she lived with her aunt for six months, until Memorial Day weekend, and she returned. Her friend Kathy Davis Hayfield was the general manager at the Tides at the time and hired her to serve the patrons of that establishment. Knowing of her love for our military, Kathy put Leslie in charge of “Buy a Soldier a Lunch” day on October 15, 2010. It was such a hit with the community and the 70 Green Beret who showed up—all about to leave for Afghanistan—that Leslie knew, after that day, she needed to do something bigger and more impactful that would speak to the needs of our military when they return.
“The Race For A Soldier was born in my heart that day,” she said.
She began to hit the streets, knock on doors and introduce herself to the mayor, the city leaders and anyone who would listen to her. Sue Braaten, a good friend and owner of the Wesley Inn Best Western Suites, advised Leslie to introduce herself to Miguel Galeana. Miguel, a renowned world-class runner and owner of Route 16 Running and Walking, happily agreed to help her organize and be the architect of the first half marathon in the area.
Thirty or so friends and family met at a conference room free of charge at the Wesley Inn each month, planning for a year. Their dedication paid off as almost 1,100 people showed up for the first run. In addition to the race inception, Leslie added an event called the Prayer Breakfast, always two days before the race, which allows soldiers to share their inspirational and illuminating stories of overcoming the struggles of post-traumatic stress and making peace and finding purpose. It was standing-room only the first year, and continues to be each year since.
The number of runners is now close to double.
“I was more grateful than surprised, and I’ve always known that the citizens of Gig Harbor and beyond are generous and caring. They live amongst our military, both active and retired. They want to be a part of the solution. We just had to find a way people could get involved in a tangible way,” said Leslie.
From an initial run, the organization now hosts four annual events, each benefiting the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation. If you are a golfer, Swing for A Soldier is a terrific tournament; if you like competitive trap-shoot events, Pull for a Soldier offers that opportunity; and of course the Prayer Breakfast is the most illuminating and inspiring event of the year in the Gig Harbor area.
These are the stories of two individuals with an idea; one combining a passion for cycling and education, the other a mother not wanting any other parent to go through a similar tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide. Both were inspired to make an impact on their community, and the ideas they brought to life have touched thousands of lives.
Do you have an idea you’re pondering?