Breckebeiner ski-a-thon returns for BOEC’s 40th anniversary
The breathless skiers finished the final six-kilometer circuit, skating back to the Breckenridge Nordic Center. One dedicated 65-year-old woman had been skiing since 5 a.m. to reach her goal of just over 60 kilometers.
The parade of costumed skiers dedicated their efforts to help raise funds for the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, as part of the annual Breckebeiner 60k Nordic Ski-a-Thon and Snowshoe.
Breckenridge Nordic Center program director Therese Dayton recalled previous years, when she skied the full 60k, with friends offering to donate funds for each kilometer.
“Each time I came around, I was ready to quit, until I started thinking, I’m not just skiing to raise money for BOEC,” she said. “I’m skiing so one individual can afford to come and have a total mountain experience in Breckenridge, and there’s no better place. It renewed my strength to ski in a blizzard.”
This year’s event was far from a blizzard, with costumed skiers grinning ear-to-ear in the groomed powder and bluebird skies. Inside, local duo Andy Grogger and Peter Krainz serenaded the group with Austrian folk music. The EpicPromise Foundation provided food for the event, while the Breckenridge Nordic Center donated skis, snowshoes and volunteers.
“They donate everything for the event, so there’s no cost,” BOEC development director Marci Sloan said. “100 percent is going to us. It’s really great.”
Last year, the event brought in a fundraising record of $40,000. This year, the event brought in $18,000 in advance of the race.
“Most years, (the money) goes to the tuition fund to help people who can’t afford it,” Sloan said. “If they need additional scholarships, it will go toward them attending our camps.”
A NOTABLE ANNIVERSARY
The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s programs are focused on providing outdoor experiences to a wide group of participants, from the visually impaired to injured veterans to at-risk students. All fees are subsidized, with the BOEC serving 2,520 participants from more than 40 states. This year, the program is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“Here in our 40th year, we’re starting a capital campaign to raise $1.8 million to keep us going for the next 40 years,” BOEC executive director Bruce Fitch said. “We already have 60 percent of that raised.”
The funds will go to staff housing, office upgrades, program and activity improvements at the Wilderness Campus and a larger scholarship endowment. BOEC’s current programs include an adaptive ski and ride school, and a variety of summer and winter activities custom-designed for specific groups.
“Across the board, they’re all working on interpersonal skills, confidence, having fun in outdoors, learning new skill set,” Wilderness programs director Jaime Benthin said. “We’re opening their eyes to something they don’t get to do every day.”
The BOEC works with the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, Mountain Mentors, Summit County Youth and Family Services, Children’s Hospital Colorado and numerous other organizations.
“It’s amazing the program they’re running and how many thousands of people are served annually with BOEC,” Therese Dayton added.
Her experience with the program also holds a special significance for her — it was how she met Gene Dayton.
“Feb. 10, 1985 was the day I met my husband,” she recalled. “It’s the reason we met because I was coming here to work with BOEC. It just happened the program was here.”
Gene Dayton, co-founder of the Breckenridge Nordic Center, is considered the founding director of the BOEC. And the Breckebeiner event was formed after another notable anniversary — Gene’s 60th birthday.
“On my husband’s 50th birthday, I surprised him with 180 friends. He was in shock,” Therese Dayton laughed.
For his 60th, instead of being the recipient of another surprise party, Gene Dayton took inspiration from Norwegian cross-country skier Freda Langell, who skied 75,000 vertical feet for her 75th birthday to raise funds for a local nonprofit. In Gene’s case, it was 60k for his 60th birthday.
“I’m just about finished,” Gene Dayton said, sitting at a table at the lodge. Having skied 42k earlier that day, he had just a few laps to go.
“It was a real joy to be part of an organization that had a future and longevity,” he said.
“It really brings people hope, gives them a chance to try some outdoor activities, and take that experience or accomplishment home,” Therese Dayton added. “You go and meet people and see how it’s changed their lives. They surprise me with the wonder of it all, the joy of being in the mountains — it’s very healing.”
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