BOEC in the News

Breckebeiner More Than Skiing

Posted April 12, 2009 by tfc-control

By Bryce Evans
Summit Daily News
Summit County, Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE – Ron Roe had only skied a few laps around the trails of the Breckenridge Nordic Center by noon on Saturday, but the 62-year-old Denver resident already seemed more than satisfied with his day.

After all, he was doing something that he loved – Nordic skiing – and was doing it for a cause close to his heart.

Saturday was the seventh annual Breckebeiner 60k Nordic Ski-a-thon and Snowshoe Bash, an all-in-good-fun sort of race where participants attempt to ski 60 kilometers around the Nordic center to raise money for the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) scholarship fund.

In the theme of the BOEC, which helps to empower people with disabilities through sports and outdoor activities, Roe understands the importance that athletics has on people’s lives. He’s a third-degree black belt and instructor in Taekwondo, not to mention an avid downhill and cross country skier.

Oh, and he’s blind.

“Anything to help raise money for the center,” Roe gave as his reason for skiing in the Breckebeiner. “No other reason than that. They’ve helped me in the past, so I’d like to help however I can do it.”

And that was the sentiment shared by most Saturday in Breck as a couple hundred people came out to show their support of the BOEC. Each participant either took up sponsorship or pledged their own money for the race, giving either a lump sum or a per-kilometer amount.
One big party The idea for the race came from BOEC co-founder Gene Dayton, who – after his wife threw him a 150-person surprise party for his 50th birthday – decided that if that many people were gathering at once, it might as well be for a better cause than himself.

“I told my wife that when I turn 60, I want to do something different and have more meaning to the day,” Dayton said. “So, I asked people to come ski with me 60 kilometers and pledge money to the scholarship fund for the BOEC.”

Though the Breckebeiner no longer celebrates Dayton’s birthday, it still resembles one big party. With barbecues blazing and the music of accordian-player Helmut Fricker – whom Dayton refers to as the “icon of the event” – filling the air, skiers and snowshoers made their loops past the Nordic center clubhouse.

Looking around Saturday at what his event has become, Dayton couldn’t help but feel proud. Although, it wasn’t entirely because of the lively atmosphere.

“It was only a hope that it could get this big,” Dayton said. “We don’t really worry about how big it is, exactly, but rather how it helps the need.”
Filling a void The “need” is what drove Dayton and a handful of others to start the BOEC in 1976.

“We needed a program to just put lives back together and empower people,” Dayton said.

Aris Sophocles, M.D. is in his fourth term as chairman of the board of directors for the BOEC and has been with the organization since it started. As Sophocles put it, the BOEC has three main purposes. The first is to operate adapted ski programs at both Breckenridge and Keystone. Secondly, the BOEC runs a Wilderness program which helps make warm-weather, outdoor activities, such as camping, river trips and various classes, accessible to people with disabilities. Finally and most importantly, Sophocles said, the BOEC trains interns to implement BOEC-like programs across the country.

“Right from the beginning, we realized that if we didn’t train people to do this work, our impact would only be local,” Sophocles said. “If we could figure out how to train them well, we could have a broader impact.”

It worked – BOEC-trained interns are now doing work in 39 states and 11 countries, according to Dayton.

“The need is so far reaching,” Dayton added. “It’s through the country and the whole world that people need this.”
Pushing the limit Most skiers attempted to take on the designated 60k, Saturday, but a couple others attempted a much harder feet.

Locals Greg Ruckman and Justin Easter set out to complete 150 kilometers of skiing Saturday.

In last year’s Breckebeiner, Easter skied 120k, which helped to raise nearly $10,000, Dayton said. So, this year, the Summit Nordic Club head coach decided to up the ante, and Ruckman decided to join in.

The skiers set out at 12:01 a.m., but after 108k, Easter had to call it quits.

“It was OK; I was hoping to go farther,” an obviously exhausted Easter said while lounging on a sofa in the Nordic center clubhouse.

A former Olympic and world champion rower, Ruckman completed the distance in 11 hours, 27 minutes and 15 seconds, according to Dayton.

Easter, 27, was glad that “one of them was able to do it,” but more pleased for what it meant for the BOEC. Easter, who moved to Summit County after racing professionally for a number of years in Montana, said that he believes deeply in what the BOEC stands for.

“I believe in skiing so much,” he said. “It’s something I’ve made my life out of – racing and coaching. It’s something that can make a difference for people.”

For Roe, who participates “quite often” in the BOEC programs, the impact the center has had on him has been invaluable, and he was more than happy to return the favor by skiing in the Breckebeiner.

“They have helped so many people through the years and really made a difference,” Roe said of the BOEC. “This is the least that I can do.”

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