MISSOULA — More than 30 riders who took part in last week's Trans Montana Snowmobile Charity Ride are probably still thawing out. But they have the satisfaction of knowing they raised $25,000 to help local mental health programs.
The six-day, cross-state event started at Lolo Pass and ended with a rider's banquet at the Antler's Lodge in Cooke City.
The ride, which has been running for more than 20 year, raises money for the National Alliance of Mental Illness, with programs that help with problems like teen suicide, and veterans battling PTSD.
Organizers say 34 riders signed up this year, with most of them making the entire circuit, logging upwards of 1,300 miles on the road and about 250 miles on the trails. And nearly 100 local riders dropped in for at least a day of riding over six days.
What's impressive is the event's draw for riders from all over the country. Some drove a thousand miles to take part. The "Long Haul" award went to Jim Keesling, who pulled a trailer all the way from Minneapolis to Montana. Butch Arterburn of St. Paul, Nebraska won the "Most Senior Rider" award at age 77.
Other awards included the "Cheer-man Award" for Alan DeLeon of Kalispell for always being willing to help fellow riders, and Colin Watts as the "Dollar Scholar" for individually raising $1,100. Cliff Walker won the "Snowed-in Award" for getting his sled stuck in a creek in Elk Meadows on the first day and race organizer Mark Smolen winning the traditional "Dog Bone Award" for making a "navigational error" following a descent down a steep hill that got him in a pickle.
For more information, and pictures of the charity ride, check out the website.