Ever since opening its doors in 1981, Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant & Cantina in Breckenridge has celebrated Cinco de Mayo. That's no surprise, considering that May 5 is a popular holiday celebrated in both Mexico and the United States. It was fun, but soon the minds behind the restaurant decided that merely celebrating was not enough."After a few years of doing it, we decided we should do it for a community organization," said Dick Carlton, owner of both Mi Casa and the Hearthstone Restaurant, also in Breckenridge. "The BOEC was near and dear to a number of us, so we decided that they should be the organization that we worked with."A good causeThe BOEC is Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, a local nonprofit that has been in the county since the late 1970s. Founded by a former Outward Bound instructor, the organization was created to provide outdoor education and recreation for adults and children with special needs or disabilities.Choosing the BOEC as the organization to benefit from the Cinco de Mayo fundraiser was not a difficult decision, Carlton said. Not only did it represent a good cause, but he and other Mi Casa staffers had volunteered with the BOEC before."I really was able to experience the incredible work that the organization does," Carlton said. "I experienced it firsthand, so it was really an easy decision for me." The number and range of programs offered by the BOEC have increased over the years. Outdoor education experiences are available year-round. Winter features include alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping and orienteering courses. The Wounded Warrior Family Ski Weekend, for example, brings injured and disabled military veterans and their families to the mountains to learn to ski and snowboard from trained BOEC instructors. The fun doesn't stop with the snow, either. Summer provides hiking and backpacking opportunities, as well as rock climbing, canoeing, whitewater rafting, adaptive cycling, camping, high-ropes courses and many other programs. Fiesta timeThis year marks the 30th year of the fundraiser, which has grown into a gathering of friends and locals. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $395,000 for the BOEC. On average, between 300 and 350 people attend, bringing in around $20,000 each year. Organizers have set their goal for 2013 at $25,000.All food, labor and costs are donated by Mi Casa, ensuring that all of the money raised goes directly to the BOEC."Every single penny is donated to them," said Mi Casa bar manager Jon Wasserman. The event includes a buffet spread with culinary creations by executive chef Bruce Carlton. Local musician Drew Reges will provide live entertainment. A silent auction, which was set up to provide further funds for the BOEC, will include items such as an Epic Pass, a Unity snowboard, 57 Rossignol skis and a house for a week in Hawaii."Everything they do for us is wonderful," said BOEC development director Marci Sloan. The organization uses the funds raised by the Cinco de Mayo event to support the general operating fund, which includes upkeep on facilities, the transportation fleet, supporting staff and volunteers and the intern program.
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