By Trina Jo Bradley
As Labor Day weekend approaches, volunteers from across the nation are gearing up for the sixth annual Park2Park bike ride across Montana to raise funds for CASA of Montana and the non-profit network of 15 local CASA programs, including Front Range CASA/GAL, Inc., which serves Pondera, Teton, Toole and Glacier counties.
“Last year, 45 riders raised almost $50,000 for CASA and that’s the goal again for this year’s ride,” Ellen Bush, Executive Director of CASA of Montana, said.
According to Bush, over 40 riders will participate in this year’s Park2Park, including riders from Washington, D.C., Idaho, Florida, New York, and Oregon, as well as numerous Montanans. This year’s ride will feature four riders from the golden triangle, one of which is a CASA himself.
Pat McDonough has only been a CASA for less than a year, but his passion for the program couldn’t be stronger.
“I know how important it is to have a caring adult in your life,” he said.
McDonough said he has been a bike rider for several years now, and has participated in other summer rides. During his search for something new, he stumbled upon the Park2Park ride, which he promptly signed up for!
Andrew and Sharon Andreassen are fairly new to Montana, having moved to Dutton from Georgia in 2007. Every summer since their move, the Andreassens have participated in the Helena One Hundred, where they met other riders wearing their Park2Park jerseys.
Sharon said they decided to participate in the Park2Park ride initially to keep her on her bike after the Helena One Hundred, which she took her 10 month old son Jacob on in a child seat on the back of her bike. For the Park2Park ride, his grandparents graciously offered to watch him in their motor home while his parents ride.
“We are not involved with CASA, but our friend Darla Parker is,” Sharon explained. “I have a Master’s degree in social work and my husband and I have volunteered with a church youth group called Pathfinders BackEast for years. CASA seemed like a worthy cause to raise money for and the ride is a bonus.”
Glacier County attorney Larry Epstein is no stranger to the bicycle or CASA.
“I have worked with these cases pre-CASA and now,” Epstein said. “The difference, in a positive way, is incredible.”
“The CASA/GAL has such a great impact in obtaining the trust of the children and the counselors/teachers who work every day with them,” he continued. “I’ve come to have a very high regard for these folks and support their efforts.”
To top it off, Epstein said he is a long time bicyclist and said the Park2Park “looks like a great challenge and a beautiful ride.”
The ride is set to begin Sept. 6 at St. Mary, and will continue along U.S. 89 through Dupuyer, Choteau, Great Falls, White Sulphur Springs, Livingston and will conclude at Gardiner Sept. 10.
According to Bush, daily ride distances are 55-100 miles. Local CASA programs, including CASA for Kids (Kalispell), Front Range CASA/GAL, Great Falls CASA CAN, Gallatin County CASA/GAL and 6th Judicial CASA in Livingston will provide meals, snacks and support services for the riders as they come through their areas.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers that speak for nearly 900 children in Montana that are in the court system through no fault of their own. Currently, more than 400 volunteers serve the 15 local CASA programs in Montana. For more information, visit CASA of Montana’s website at www.casagal.org, or call Front Range CASA/GAL at (406) 576-7041.