Strawberry Shortcut brings sweet deal to area athletes
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Julie Fite can’t remember a time when the Special Olympics Colorado teams in Garfield County haven’t benefited from the annual Strawberry Shortcut 10K and 5K races.
“I’d like to say that’s been the case since its inception,” said Fite, the organization’s area manager who is in her 22nd year on the job. “I do know that’s been the case ever since I’ve been the area manager.”
The annual Strawberry Shortcut, a staple of Glenwood’s Strawberry Days town festival, will run for the 37th time on Sunday. Both the 10K and 5K races will start at the corner of Ninth Street and Grand Avenue, with the 10K beginning at 7 a.m. and the 5K starting at 8:15 a.m., with the 1-mile fun run following the 5K at 9:15 a.m.
Costs are $30 to run in either the 10K or 5K, $20 to participate in just the fun run and $35 to run in the 10K and 5K. The fun run is included free of charge for all race entrants. Cost for a family of four is $75, and registration prices will rise by $5 on race day. Registration can be done at http://www.strawberryshortcut.com, or at the Bank of Colorado on the corner of Ninth and Grand.
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Proceeds from the race are donated to local teams from Special Olympics Colorado in a set amount of $5,000 annually, according to Strawberry Shortcut race director Kevin White. When the race festivities begin, Fite estimated that close to 40 Special Olympians take part in the event by either running in the fun run or 5K, or by serving as volunteers at water stations along the course.
That $5,000 makes the local Special Olympics branch the largest benefactor from a fundraiser in western Colorado, Fite said. The annual Gauntlet Race in Grand Junction, she added, brings in $15,000 annually, but the proceeds are divided among all Western Colorado Special Olympics branches.
“It sure is a lot nicer than doing a bunch of car washes or selling cookies on the side of the street,” Fite said.
The money also helps local Special Olympians gain some independence.
Once the money is deposited into a bank account, Fite said, Special Olympians are allowed to spend the money to cover the cost of competition. That includes the purchase of uniforms, equipment and meals along with other expenses for travel. Items can be purchased directly out of the bank account, or athletes can be reimbursed by submitting an invoice.
“We try to keep a close eye on things just in case,” Fite said, adding that a backup plan is always in place if event expenses exceed the allotted budget.
White, who in the past has coached Special Olympics soccer teams with his father Steve, said the benefits the Shortcut provides Special Olympians go far beyond any monetary value.
“On a personal level, it’s very rewarding,” White said. “I’ve developed some great friendships with a lot of them, and it’s great when they give you a high five after they’ve finished the fun run or something. And when they foot crosses the finish line when they run, there’s always a big sense of pride they have that you never get tired of seeing.”
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