Steamboat Springs Sal Malone just gets it. The Steamboat Springs resident turns 10 Monday, but his lack of years doesn’t keep him from understanding the big picture and importance of Saturday’s Fifth Annual STARS Biking the Boat Charity Ride.
“I like to ride my bike, and I like to raise money. So I just do it because it’s fun,” Malone said. “It gives all the people in this program an opportunity to do some really cool stuff that they might not be able to do if there wasn’t this program.”
Saturday’s fundraiser was for STARS — Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports — that provides an outlet for people with disabilities to maintain an active, outdoor lifestyle.
Participants had the opportunity to take part in bike rides of 75, 52, 26 or five miles, with all the proceeds benefitting the STARS program.
“We have a lot of great people that come out just to support the cause and help raise money for STARS, which we truly appreciate,” said STARS Executive Director Julie Taulman.
“And for a lot of other people, they get to ride along with people with a disability and see some of our different hand cycles and recumbent bikes and our tandem bikes we use for people with autism," Taulman said. "All of that really helps them to understand what we do.”
Saturday’s event raised more than $25,000 for STARS, according to event director Todd Gollnick. Part-time Steamboat resident Tony D’Aquila was the top overall fundraiser, bringing in just over $3,700. Malone was the top youth fundraiser with more than $2,000 donated.
“He crushes it every year on behalf of STARS,” Gollnick said of Malone.
Many participants raise funds by asking people to donate and then riding in the event. Malone, participating in his fourth Biking the Boat Charity Ride, spent most of his time emailing friends and family, which he didn’t think was too difficult. The toughest part was stepping up and doing the 26-mile bike ride for the first time — his longest previous ride coming in at around 17 miles.
“It was very long and very hard. The last hill especially was extremely difficult,” Malone said. “I was in two and one, which is unusual, because I’m always in a big gear. I was having trouble, and it was really difficult.”
But Malone pushed through and finished the event, even leaving enough energy to dance around on stage in Gondola Square after the Qdoba-catered lunch at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
Biking the Boat is one of three main fundraisers STARS hosts throughout the year. The other two are the Steamboat Wine Festival, which took place earlier this month, and March’s Mountain Challenge.
Taulman said this year’s Wine Fest brought in the “largest amount of money we’ve ever raised for an event,” with Saturday’s charity ride adding nearly $30,000. STARS has recently added new programs, many for veterans, and has plans for even more in the future.
“We use that money to provide scholarships and to provide programs and to buy equipment so that we can provide year-round services for people with disabilities,” Taulman said. “We love the fact that people get to come out and clients get to participate in it. That’s really what’s most important for us.”
For more information on the program, visit steamboatstars.com.
To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert