Hundreds gather for 9th annual Breckebeiner
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – Gene Dayton described the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center as the “little school that serves the world.”
With more than 2,000 participants – from 17 foreign countries and 40 states – utilizing the many BOEC programs just this year, that certainly can’t be disputed.
Neither can the impact that Dayton and the rest of the local Nordic ski community has on helping the BOEC’s cause.
More than 200 people gathered at the Breckenridge Nordic Center on Saturday for the ninth annual Breckebeiner 60k Ski-A-Thon and Snowshoe Bash, a fundraiser for the BOEC’s Tuition Assistance Fund.
“It’s a wonderful time for people to get together and enjoy the sport and come together around a cause that truly celebrates life,” said Dayton, founder of the event, operator of the Nordic center and one of the co-founders of the BOEC.
The mission of the foundation is to offer “life-changing outdoor activities for a diverse population of people” with mental and physical disabilities, serious illnesses, injured veterans, youth at risk and other special needs.
And Saturday, people spun laps around the Nordic center’s trail system to help raise funds. participants took up sponsorship or pledged money on a per-kilometer basis. The final total is expected to be more than $20,000.
“Year number nine, and we’re hoping that we’ll double what’s been done in any previous years,” Dayton said.
They’re off to a good start. Dayton said this year’s event has an “open track” format, meaning people can do their skiing anytime during the week, up until April 1.
Although, many opted to take part in Saturday’s festivities.
With polka-style music – led by local accordion icon Helmut Fricker – as the backdrop, participants lapped around the center’s clubhouse, where dozens were gathered. Grills sizzled and the bonfires were blaring, and at the completion of each lap, participants were greeted to loud applause and some cow bells.
People were dressed in costumes, some even unrecognizable, but the care for the cause was apparent.
“Many of our clients, because they’re disabled, don’t have very much money, so they wouldn’t be able to go on these experiences without the opportunities we provide,” BOEC executive director Bruce Fitch said.
The vast majority of people won’t make the 60k. Dayton said he expects 20 or so to do it.
Many, though, are helping to raise substantial funds. Dayton said Mike Atkinson, pastor of Agape Outpost, has put up “thousands of dollars” this week for the BOEC.
“He pumped it up from the pulpit,” Dayton said with a laugh.
The event started nine years ago as Dayton’s 60th birthday party, when he asked friends and people in the community to ski with him to raise money for the BOEC. Dayton said it still gives him pride to see what the people of Breckenridge are willing to do for a noble cause.
“It’s a little town with a big heart, and it’s a town that serves the world,” Dayton said.
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