The Gorge Kids Triathlon keeps growing.
When founder and lead committee chair Chris Reitz began the triathlon in 2011, 150 elementary-aged participants swam, biked and ran their way to $3,700 for PE programs. Last year, over 300 participated — and raised $10,000.
All monies go directly to local elementary schools to be used in any capacity that promotes physical education, from transportation to swimming lessons to purchasing new playground equipment, said marketing and advertising director Nicole Faaborg, with the exception of Cascade Locks, which has chosen not to participate.
Now in its fifth year, Gorge Kids Tri has evolved from a simple race to one with multiple sponsors, prizes, food vendors and an athlete’s village for post-triathlon tips promoting a healthy lifestyle.
This year, bicycle donations from Anson’s Bike Buddies and helmets donated by Providence will be available for students who wish to take part but lack a bike for the ride portion of the course. As in past years, a scholarship program pays registration fees for those who cannot afford them.
The idea is getting as many people to participate as possible — kids and adults, from all Hood River County School District elementary schools. Reitz had 60 adult volunteers last year who set up and took down the course, helped children register, and stood along the route to guide the athletes.
“But we will always take more,” she added. “It’s really fun for the kids when there are people along the course cheering.”
Faaborg said the event has already raised $8,000 and added 14 new sponsors for the Sept. 20 triathlon, with 30 children preregistered.
“The team is very dedicated and everyone works very hard,” said Faaborg of fellow team members Megan Spears, Nigel Hinman, Mike Schrankel, Amy Kitt, Shayla Moline, Suzanne Tickey, and Michele Beaman.
With that kind of established success, it’s no wonder area musicians Max Reitz (of Cripple Hop) and Damon Clegg (of Kleevage) are “hitching their wagon” to the event with a fundraiser of their own: The first-ever Music Festival of the Gorge (MFOG), scheduled for Sept. 19 at the Waterfront Park Amphitheater.
The City of Hood River is donating use of the space, but more volunteers are needed to help stage the event — in any capacity. Only about a third of the volunteers needed have signed up, said Clegg.
Adding the music event “seemed like a great thing to pack on to the Tri,” Chris Reitz said. “The community is so supportive of our kids — I can’t think of a better time to do it.
“You get to listen to great local music while exposing kids to what you want them to fall in love with — PE and music,” she added.
Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket and a picnic, or pick up food at one of the many waterfront-area businesses.
The free concert features a diverse lineup of local musicians, all donating their time in support of the Matt Klee Scholarship Fund. Cash donations will be collected at the festival, as will those via text through the Hood River Education Foundation.
Klee, who passed away May 30, 2014, from injuries sustained during a bicycle crash at Whistler Bike Park in Canada, loved both sports and music, said Max Reitz. The main focus of the fund is to “promote music education where it’s most needed,” he said, for all Hood River County School District students.
Music Festival of the Gorge lineup
1-2 p.m. — Molly’s Music (kids’ music with Molly Schwartz)
2-3:30 p.m. — Kleevage (Matt Klee’s band)
3:30-5 p.m. — Kitchen Table
5-6:30 p.m. — Feed the Dogg
6:30-8 p.m. — Cripple Hop
8-10 p.m. — Tony Smiley
This year, the fund purchased musical instruments for Wy’east Middle School, said Clegg, but in the future, it could be used for anything from taking kids to see musical performances to bringing musicians in to the schools.
“We’re hoping to make (MFOG) an annual event, with different bands each year,” said Max Reitz. They’re also hoping it attracts people from outside the Gorge to both events.
“We are so grateful,” said Chris Reitz. “We know the reason this grows every year is the support of the entire community.”
For more information, to register or to volunteer, visit the Gorge Kids Triathlon webpage at gorgekidstri.com, or athletepath.com to register. Preregistration is $20, or $30 the day of the race.
Participants will receive a t-shirt and a water bottle. Racers will begin in waves to allow kids of all skill levels to participate. The race begins at 9:30 a.m.
For more information or to volunteer for MFOG, visit their Facebook page (keyword: Music Festival of the Gorge). The music will run from 1-10 p.m. For more information about the Matt Klee Scholarship Fund, visit livelikematt.org.