Yodelayheehoooo: Challenge Aspen fund-raisers head to Switzerland | AspenTimes.com

Yodelayheehoooo: Challenge Aspen fund-raisers head to Switzerland

The final step in a $90,000 fund-raiser for Challenge Aspen is just around the corner.

On Sunday, 31 mostly local runners and walkers will participate in the Lausanne Marathon in Switzerland.

The nonprofit that helps people with disabilities do everything from skiing to rock climbing decided earlier this year the marathon would be a worthwhile way to raise money and also show participants that they could challenge themselves.

The group started training 20 weeks ago, with the goals of eventually running or walking a 10K, a half marathon or a full marathon in Switzerland. Challenge Aspen Executive Director Mardell Burkholder started out intending to walk a half marathon but decided during training to go the distance and learn to run a marathon.

“I got midway and thought, `That’s ridiculous, I’m going to do the whole thing,'” she said. “I’m in my 60s, so I don’t know if it’s a good idea, but I’m following the plan and making the commitment. So far it’s worked, and I’ve gotten a lot of support.”

In fact, the whole group has raised $90,000 in donations to benefit Challenge Aspen. That money will go directly to help the nonprofit’s programs, Burkholder said. The group leaves this afternoon for Denver and flies out of Denver International Airport on Wednesday en route to Switzerland.

Having pushed themselves to train in Aspen, almost 8,000 feet above sea level, Burkholder said the scenic 26-mile run around Lake Geneva, where the altitude is 1,465 feet, might be easier.

Gwen Carew, whose daughter has autisticlike characteristics, is also running the marathon. She said that there was no question she’d help with the fund-raiser when she heard about it. Carew’s daughter, whose name is also Gwen, has participated in the Challenge Aspen summer music and dance camp several times.

“Taking her one time a year to that camp is the one time out of the year that she’s really treated like a typical kid,” Carew said. “She goes horseback riding and rafting with them, and participates in a play. These are things we take for granted with other kids.

“It’s just such a huge thing to know she can just go there and that there are great people there who take care of her and treat her like any other kid in the world.”

Carew said she’s had a good time getting together with all the other runners to push athletic limits, as well as gripe about aches and pains.

“The number-one reason I’m doing this is because Challenge Aspen is just a great organization,” she said. “I have to say it’s amazing how encouraging everyone has been to us and each other, and that’s really great.”

The group has gotten help from sponsors, including Jimmy’s Restaurant, Aspen Pure water, the Ute Mountaineer and the Aspen Club and Spa.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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