Race for Life event brings all ages together for a good cause
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent July 1, 2013 10:44PM
Ten-year-old Bryce Brodner gets air on a jump at the Steel Wheels outdoor track at Portage's Imagination Glen park on Saturday, June 29. Brodner was among dozens of BMX riders who participated in the annual Race for Life charity event.
Updated: August 3, 2013 6:28AM
As BMX racers from little kids to middle-aged adults met at the track and pedaled through their motos, they each seemed to appreciate two of the sports outstanding qualities: building family ties and supporting good causes.
At Saturday evening’s Race for Life, a double points charity event at Steel Wheels track at Imagination Glen park in Portage, more than 75 participants and plenty of volunteers served up cycling fun, concessions and charitable raffle tickets.
Race for Life provided opportunities for new classes of BMX riders. It was also a chance for racers to show off their fundraising prowess. For the 14th straight year, Steel Wheels collectively raised in excess of $1,500 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Event director Jackie Altizer, who founded Steel Wheels with her husband Ken Altizer in 2000, said BMX is a sport for individuals — but it’s big on family support.
“You can do a lot of things and I know it sounds very altruistic and serendipitous to say ‘we’re making a difference in the lives of these kids’ but they need (all) the love, and support and companionship and examples as we parents can do,” said Jackie Altizer. “We are a family to the kids here.”
Though dozens of participants rolled into the venue with bicycles and gear in tow, attendance was down from previous years. Windy conditions, which hinted of rain, may have dampened the spirit of some. Other Midwestern tracks had events running simultaneously. Still some racers may have participated in the track’s free Olympic Day open house a day earlier.
Eight-year-old Chase Fagerstrom became the center of attention when track announcers told of his recent fundraising activities. The team Fusion rider from South Haven was declared the top donor to the event’s charity tie-in. He said he collected $805 from family and neighbors.
Nearby, Harold Sills and his 10-year-old son Wyatt watched the early motos. The Wheatfield family recently had a brush with cancer, but the good news is that the boy’s dad is cancer free.
“I’m happy,” said Wyatt, who later qualified for the race’s main.
Last fall Harold Sills learned he had a rare type of cancer that affected his liver and lower vertebrae. Soon after, at the Steel Wheel’s indoor track in Hobart, donations were collected and BMXers sent their thoughts and prayers to the Sills via the Internet.
“I’m doing good,” said Harold Sills, who underwent chemotherapy. “In April I was told I was in full remission.”
A new event that quickly became a crowd favorite involved the youngest of racers. Striders bikes, which allow kids to walk instead of pedal, appeared as a special feature and were recently added as a sanctioned race by USABMX.
Mom Nannette Trimolt of Munster cheered on her son Gunnar Trimolt, who is just 2 years, 4 months old. The toddler (dressed pint-sized racing gear) placed third.
“What boy wouldn’t like to ride a track and learn to jump and do wheelies?” she said.
Local expert Tony Claar had a productive Race for Life. He shook off seasonal sniffles to earn a first place in the 28-35 Expert class.
“I started breathing (better) when I got out of the gate and into the first turn,” Claar said. “In my favorite straightaway — the second straight — that’s where I get most of my speed.”
On the track’s rhythm section Claar was smooth as glass. At the double jump he kept his wheel pointed down while his neck-and-neck competitor Zach Rothman left his up and seemed to be caught and slowed by the evening’s gusty winds.
Logan Zurek, 9, also fared well. He took the 10 Intermediate class main, edging out Dylan Lockhart by a bike-and-a-half length. In the 11 Crusiser, he came in second place behind 11-year-old Jacob Ebbert. Zurek had beat out Ebbert in a race at Saturday’s Olympic Day.
Zurek’s strategy: get the hole shot, then focus like a laser on the job at hand.
“When the gate drops I just focus on what’s going to happen next, really,” said Zurek, who leads in USABMX district points for his age group. “If you don’t count yourself out, you can do whatever you want.”
Champaign, Ill. resident Scott Cramer reflected on BMX’s beneficence. A racer since 1980, he said the sport has always kept a focus on charitable efforts.
Together with his 13-year-old son Max Cramer, the 44-year-old veteran racer made up part of team Four-Five racing
“I raced for factory teams all my life and just decided to do it again,” Scott Cramer said. “Basically my son’s first racing number was four and my number in 1980 was No. 5.”