Many changes to Choteau’s 2017 4th of July fun run

Many changes to Choteau’s 2017 4th of July fun run

Grizzly Activity Inc. is planning big changes for the Choteau 4th of July fun run, including a new name, a new course and a new cause for proceeds from the annual event.

The new name of the race will be “Rocky’s Road,” in honor of long-time Choteau and Augusta outfitter Rocky Heckman, 58, who fought aggressive and incurable gliobastoma brain cancer on a tough, obstacle-littered journey from May 30, 2015, until his death on April 22, 2017.

Race directors Barb Bouma and Melody Martinsen said the proceeds of the race will be used to support programs that provide services to both people fighting cancer and family members who are their caregivers. Rocky’s wife, Lorell, was his primary caregiver and found accessing support to be challenging. She hopes to create a program or partner with existing programs to make support more readily available for families in the greater Great Falls area.

In an interview, Lorell said she wants to establish a private, nonprofit organization, run by an independent board of directors, that will become a 501(c)3 federally tax-exempt organization. This organization will create a website and Facebook page that will provide resources for cancer fighters (those who have been diagnosed with cancer) and for their families and caregivers.

She has registered the domain name “Cancer Vive It” and has a Facebook page of that name as well. She pronounces the name, “can survive it.”

This board will establish a mission statement that spells out what support services will be available through Cancer Vive It. Lorell says she envisions a program that provides at least monthly support meetings in Great Falls initially and then, if possible, in outlying areas. She would like the first part of each meeting to provide general educational program for both the cancer fighters and their caregivers. After that part of the meeting is done, she said, then the two groups would break out into separate support meetings for the cancer fighters and for their caregivers.

Lorell said she would like this organization to work with both the Great Falls Clinic and Benefis Health System, the two major medical providers in Great Falls, but to be independent and able to equally serve patients of providers at both facilities.

“This is for people who are fighting cancer and those who are taking care of them,” she said. “I’m a researcher and a fighter to find information, and I had an extremely hard time finding out what my resources were.”

She said she would like Cancer Vive It to be able to provide funding for such things as fuel for frequent trips to physicians, a spa day for exhausted care givers, or even help with the costs of wigs for those who are undergoing chemotherapy, for example.

She said the educational programs will be crucial as well. Some topics that she thinks could be addressed include how to set up power of attorney for the cancer fighter, how to apply for disability from Social Security, and how to minimize infection risk while travelling, for example.

Lorell is looking for others to join her and serve on the board. “I don’t want it to be just me. I want to get people on board to become a board,” she said. “I just really feel strongly that there is a need for this.”

And, she said, while Rocky fought brain cancer, she wants Cancer Vive It to help people who are fighting all different kinds of cancer.

“There’s a lot that cancer can’t take away from you,” she said. “I just want to give people hope through this.”

Bouma and Martinsen said that since the nonprofit organization is still being formed, proceeds from this year’s races will likely be held in an account at First Security Bank in Choteau and then transferred to the nonprofit once it has been established.

Planning for the new fun run hasn’t been finalized yet, but so far Bouma says the fun run will offer those registering a T-shirt and the names of all entrants will be entered in a drawing for door prizes. Prizes will also be awarded to the top men’s and women’s finishers in the 0-39 and 40 and older age groups in the longer race, and for the top men’s and women’s overall finishers in the one-mile run.

They also plan to sell raffle tickets for several major prizes donated by caring sponsors. The raffle prizes so far are an overnight stay at the 7 Lazy P Outfitting guest ranch and a half day ride in the Rocky Mountains; an overnight stay and dinner for two at Sun Canyon Lodge and a boat ride on Gibson Reservoir; a large Yeti cooler filled with assorted beverages; and chinks and hat custom-made by Sparky Wallace of Cow Camp Supply. The drawings will be on July 4 and ticket-holders need not be present to win.

One of the biggest changes local runners will see this year is the route for the runs. With the Choteau American Legion starting slack for the 4th of July rodeo at 10 a.m., traffic past the Choteau Pavilion and City Park between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. has increased sharply, Martinsen said.

With all the pickup trucks pulling horse trailers, driving right through the finish line for the fun run, the potential for an accident is too high to keep the race on its old course, Martinsen said.

Instead, the course will be moved across town to the Choteau High School parking lot. There runners will have access to public bathrooms in the multipurpose building before the race, and they will finish both the one-mile fun run/walk and the longer run on the new all-weather track. Family members will be encouraged to wait for runners in the football stands.

“This is a way for community members to get a good look at the new all-weather track,” Martinsen said. The school is raising money every year through donations and the sale of signs on the track fence to save for regular maintenance of the track, she said, adding that she hopes some of the out-of-town visitors who run the race may also make a donation to help with track upkeep.

Martinsen and Bouma are still working to finalize the race courses. The one-mile will be run around the school campus, finishing on the track. The longer race will go out of town in a big rectangle, starting and finishing at the high school. A short section of the race will be held on a private farm road, being used by permission of the ranch owner.

The four-mile race will start just outside the high school parking lot and will go out of town south on Seventh Avenue Northwest (which merges into U.S. Highway 287). About one mile out of town, the course will turn west onto the Bellview Road and then run west for about one mile. Runners will then make a right-hand (north) turn onto a gravel field road and run north through private property for about three-quarters of a mile, until the farm road connects with Sherman Lane (also gravel initially).

Runners will turn right onto Sherman Lane, cross the bridge over the Teton River and follow the road back into town, turning north on 10th Avenue S.W. and running north, then turning right onto Third Street Northwest, running east then diverting onto the north entrance of the high school football field and finishing on the all-weather track in front of the football grandstand.

Racers who want to pay an additional $10 will then be welcome to continue running or walking another seven-plus laps on the track to make their total distance 5.8 miles in honor of Rocky’s last birthday. A major donor will provide a 100 percent match for each person who signs up to do the extra 1.8 miles.

The 4-mile race will start at 8 a.m. and the one-mile fun run at 8:15 a.m.

Watch for more information on the race as the organizers finalize details.

Any business, organization or individual wanting to donate items for door prizes or to help defray the costs of the run should contact Bouma at 466-5895 or 590-5895.

Registration will open online later this month. Runners and walkers will be able to register after June 1 by picking up a registration form at either the Choteau Acantha or the Stage Stop Inn.