In Kelly’s Words – I got to drive a NASCAR car…

 

I got to drive a race car! There are some things that I’ve always dreamed of doing. This wasn’t one of them! But some dreams find you.

 

For the backstory: A few months ago Zeke and I got a text from Tom Carr, head of Therapeutic Recreation at Craig Hospital in Denver (where I went to rehab after my injury), asking if I wanted to come down to Dover, Delaware on September 28 to drive a NASCAR car. Not an offer I was expecting, but not something I could say no to either. We didn’t get much information for a while other than a team which included Craig Hospital had developed a NASCAR car with hand controls.

 

An aside: I drive my car with special hand controls design for people who cannot use the pedals. They can be installed on any car by the same vendors that outfit minivans with ramps. Obviously the car has to be automatic, but other than that it can be any car. I have a special certification from the state on my license allowing me to use them.

 

Back to the story: When I got down there I learned that it was a collaborative effort between a neurosurgeon at Craig, engineers at the Air Force Academy, and a Denver-based company called Furniture Row, which sponsors the 78 car (Martin Truex Jr.) in the NASCAR Cup series. Together, they decided to make a NASCAR car that people with disabilities can drive. Making a car with hand controls on its own is not super ground breaking, but the team is collaborating on making cars that higher-level quadriplegics, with no arm or hand movement, can drive. That is some more serious technology.

 

I got to both ride shotgun with Truex Jr., the current NASCAR Cup leader, and then drive the car myself. Both were incredible experiences. There were 9 people with disabilities, including myself, with this group. With Truex driving, we hit 160 in the straightaways. Then we got to drive (though they engaged the governor a bit…).

 

Initially I was more excited to drive myself, but once I got in the car with Martin I had such an awesome time! It was so fast and so loud! We only got to do a few laps each since we only had a few hours with the track to ourselves but it was plenty to see what that speed feels like and feel the forces you get at those speeds. It was awesome!

 

I was actually really nervous to drive myself, in hindsight I’m not sure why. I went much slower than when I was with Martin (I was going about 90 I think) but it was incredible to get the feeling of driving on the track. The track in Dover is only a mile long (others are 2+ miles), which means the turns and even the straightaways are really banked to help with the forces. It felt like the car pulled where it wanted you to go and it was harder to control than I thought, though ironically (or maybe not so ironically) I felt easier the faster I went.

 

There was one other really big highlight about the trip. There was a guy down there named Jason who was actually a Spring 2017 KBF Grant Recipient! Because we hadn’t gotten much info about the trip, we didn’t know who else would be there. And because he travelled alone, he hung out a bunch with Zeke and me. An awesome guy that we’re thrilled to have part of the #KBFamily and an unexpected bonus to hang out with him in a context that didn’t revolve around the KBF!

 

After the day of driving we had a suite at the track to watch the races the next few days (there are a lot of secondary races around a NASCAR event). Zeke and I learned a lot from the other people that were there, both professional drivers and just from people who were big NASCAR fans (including Jason). Maybe I’m not the biggest NASCAR fan, but the experience was incredible and gave me a huge appreciation for what goes into it. And I have a new favorite driver!

 

Dylan Update:

For our trip to Delaware to drive the NASCAR we decided to leave Dylan in Vermont. This meant 3 nights away! I have left her for 2 nights once and a couple other times have left for 1 night, but 3 felt like a lot. She spent one night with my sister and 2 nights with my parents and, of course, she did great. We FaceTimed with her every night, ever time she saw us she would come up and say “mama” or “dada” with a big smile and get very excited, but then she would move on and keep playing. It was really fun to see her recognize us and be excited to see us but still not really care and have fun with my family. When we got back I kept thinking she was doing things that were so cute, but really I think it was that I had been away from her so everything she did seemed cute to me. What can I say, I guess I’m that mom that thinks everything their kid does is cute!

 

Kelly Brush Ride – Recap

12th Annual Kelly Brush Ride powered by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations hits $500,000!

 

We are still blown away. With 810 riders raising $514,499, we had 100 more riders and raised almost $100,000 more than last year. The proceeds will be used immediately to help purchase adaptive sports equipment for people with spinal cord injuries and advocate for and improve safety equipment for alpine ski race programs.
 

Visit Kelly Brush Ride Site                    View Photo Gallery

 

Kelly Brush Ride by-the-numbers:

  • $514,499 – raised (and still growing!)
  • 810 – riders (including 25 handcyclists)
  • 82 – volunteers (at the Start/Finish, water stops, and supporting)
  • 268 – riders fundraised, receiving donations from 2600+ donors
  • 91 – riders earned KBF Patagonia backpack (for raising $750)
  • 43 – riders earned KBF Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody (for raising $1500)
  • $438 – proceeds of ice cream donated by The Scoop back to the KBF

Top Fundraisers and Prize Winners:

  • Top Teams – GMVS ($55,410) | Midd ’84 & Friends ($53,059) [UPDATED]
  • Top Fundraiser – Rick Makin ($13,257)
  • Top New Fundraiser – Heidi Witherell ($5,025)
  • VBT Raffle Winner – JB & Dana, Boston, MA
  • Fat Bike Raffle Winner – Fred Dieffenbach (winner of raffle of those that raised $2,500+ or received 25+ donations)
  • See the whole Scoreboard here >

Special thanks:

  • VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations – Our title sponsor and great partner!
  • Middlebury College and the Middlebury Ski Team – Our gracious hosts!
  • Fundraisers – They go above and beyond to help us fulfill our mission.
  • Volunteers – The best make the best event!
  • Castleton University Ski Team – They drive an hour and a half and work from 6:30am to 6:00pm. We simply cannot thank this team enough!
  • EventSet – For providing the start/finish arch, bike racks, barriers, and photo backdrop.
  • The Scoop – For bringing the awesome ice cream truck!
  • All Our Sponsors Listed Below!

SAVE THE DATE –

13th Kelly Brush Ride powered by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations

 September 8, 2018

 

 

In Kelly’s Words – A behind-the-scenes look at the Kelly Brush Ride

 

Have you ever thought about what it takes to put on an event like the Kelly Brush Ride? Since it has grown so organically over the last 12 years and I’ve lived it, I never thought about people’s interest in how we do what we do.

 

The other day I realized that one of our new staff members, Stephanie, has been doing the ride for years with her brother who has a spinal cord injury, but didn’t really know what it was like to plan the event. She’d never seen it from that side. So I thought it might be interesting to give everyone that perspective.

 

We have come a long way. Early on we had no idea how many people were coming, how much water we needed, what food we needed, etc. One year we ran out of water – a mistake we never made again! Today we have a pretty good formula that we’ve created over the years, trying to use every change or major decision to make it better. We track whether we’re improving or not by doing a post ride survey (which, if you rode, you can take here >). Hopefully we continue to get better every year!

 

I’ll walk you through the week leading up to the Kelly Brush Ride:

 

Monday is Labor Day, which we try to take off.

 

Tuesday and Wednesday are spent organizing boxes that will go to every water stop, filled with things like food, paper towels, Gatorade, etc., driving around and picking up banners from all of our sponsors, and making final pushes for fundraising, registration, and social media posts to promote the ride. I also typically go on a local radio show on the Wednesday morning before the Ride. I’ve built a pretty fun rapport with the hosts, so I’m much less nervous than I used to be!

 

On Thursday we load all of the vans. Each of the 5 water stops has a van that has everything the volunteers need so they can just show up, set up, and then pack back up. There are tents, tables, chairs, a wheelchair (for handcyclists to use the port-a-let when they are in their handcycle and their wheelchair is back at the start), trash cans, bike pumps, first aid supplies, etc.

 

Friday is when it starts to get fun. It starts with a coordinated caravan of volunteers (more on that in a second) to Middlebury dropping the vans at each water stop along the way so that they are there and ready for the volunteers to set up the water stops on Saturday. In Middlebury we meet the Middlebury College Ski Team at the start and they help us set up the entire start/finish area. With many hand it’s light work – I feel very grateful for their help. They also help us break down the start/finish area on Saturday evening.

 

Saturday (Ride day!) is always a whirlwind, but in the best way. We get there around 5:30-6am and leave around 6pm. I get to talk to so many people who are doing the Ride, both old friends and people I’m meeting for the first time. There are many people who I see there every year, some who have done it every year or nearly every year since the start. It’s great to be out there with other handcyclists. You get to compare notes, see other equipment, and I get to learn from some incredible athletes. The ski world is very well represented between ski academies, people from US Ski and Snowboard, masters racers, and ex-racers from many different era’s (my era of skiing probably being the most represented) – it is so much fun to see so many friends in the same place! But by the time Saturday night rolls around, I’m exhausted!

 

But every year when I’m sitting at home feeling completely exhausted I also feel incredibly energized about what we have accomplished and how many people feel what we are doing is important. It always inspires me do it again next year and to find more ways to make the ride even better.

 

As for the volunteers I mentioned. We really couldn’t even come close to pulling this off without the 80+ volunteers who help make it happen. But I want to take a second to specifically thank the incredible people at Summit Property Management in South Burlington. Summit is a family business in so many ways. My father, sister, and brother-in-law all work there. When the KBF started, we were run out of their office, and all the employees have become an extended family. They are there helping on each day of my timeline above (and have been for 12 years!), doing both fun and tedious tasks. They truly make this event happen, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thanks guys!

 

With another Kelly Brush Ride in the books, we can finally exhale. It’s our job in the next few weeks to make sure everyone involved knows how appreciative and grateful we are for the donations, time, commitments, and energy they’ve put into the Ride. And if that includes you, let me be the first (or second) to say THANK YOU!

 

Dylan Update:

 

Dylan’s words continue to explode. It seems like she has new words every day or at least things that she is trying to say. I can tell, though, that she has started to have more desires and opinions and her words just aren’t there yet to express them so she’s getting more frustrated. She’s become a bit more whiney because of this which is kind of frustrating for Zeke and me. I know I just need to keep in mind how much more frustrating it is for Dylan!

 

She also started a new daycare a couple weeks ago. We liked our old daycare but had some reasons we wanted to switch. I was amazed at how sad I was to be leaving her original daycare and the providers who love her so much there. She also is now crying every time I drop her off which is sad for me, though I know this is a phase and she probably would have done it around this age no matter where she goes. I think we are going to be happy with our new daycare though, fingers crossed!

Why We Ask You to Fundraise for the Kelly Brush Ride

 

Rider fundraising is what allows us to make inspiring stories happen. Period.

 

More accurately, you are making these stories happen. It’s what allows people with paralysis to achieve active lifestyles. It’s what keeps thousands of ski racers around the country safe.

We don’t have fundraising minimums, which is somewhat unique for an event of this size. Other large regional charity events, like the Boston Marathon, Pan Mass Challenge, or The Prouty, all have fundraising minimums. Instead, we see it as our job at the KBF to inspire people to fundraise, either with stories of impact, with fundraising incentive prizes, or by catering to your competitive spirit.

Traditionally about 30% of our riders fundraise, which accounts for 65% of the proceeds of the Kelly Brush Ride. We work 12 months a year to court sponsors, sell jerseys and raffle tickets, and get people to register for the ride. But our riders are TWICE as effective as we are!

 

My goal is to get 50% of riders fundraising in 2017. This is ambitious, but so is our $500,000 goal. I need your help!

We cannot keep up with the growing demand for our program services. While we’re growing revenue 30+% each year, demand is doubling. In fact, we were able to fund less than half of the requests made to us in 2016 (and we funded double what we did the year before!). It feels better to say YES than to say NO. Please help us do that!

We are aware that a $150 registration fee is no small ask, and $100 of that fee goes to our mission. But the average fundraiser raises more than $700, and we find that if someone is able to register $50, they’re probably going to raise much more.

If you’re new to this or looking for a way to get started, please watch the quick tutorial I put together on how to share your fundraising page. Then share broadly!

2 Easy Ways to Get Started:

Log In

Here are a few stats to keep in mind:

  • 4 – The average number of contacts (emails, social media views, calls, etc) before someone gives. So don’t get discouraged.
  • 50% – of all fundraising happens in the last week. Urgency works!
  • 100% – The amount of your fundraising that will go directly to help our grant recipients THIS FALL!

Meet the #KBFamily – Matt from Wisconsin

 

“I can’t thank the Kelly Brush Foundation enough for helping me get this handcycle. It is such a smooth, fluid ride that I feel the urge to ride it whenever I think and talk about it.”

Meet Matt from Wisconsin, a Spring 2017 grant recipient of a new handcycle. After sustaining a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident in 1999, his friends and family fundraised to buy him an entry-level handcycle. He’s been riding that over 15 years! He applied for a new handcycle so he could find that love of cycling again.

In April of 2017, the KBF awarded him $1,500 to help him get back out there.

 

He’s had the handcycle all summer now, and checked in this week:

“I received my Top End Force 3 hand cycle and LOVE it! I have been riding more lately and am getting more used to it and finding the right fit. I’m riding 3-4 times per week and hope to ride much more as I get in better shape. ; ) I can’t thank you and your organization enough for helping me get this hand cycle. It is such a smooth, fluid ride that I feel the urge to ride it whenever I think and talk about it. Thank you so much again for helping me get this bike and allowing me be apart of such a great organization that does so much to help people improve their quality of life! ”

Congratulations Matt. Thank you for being part of the #KBFamily and stay smooth out there!