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Annual bike ride brings in funds and donations for local groups after the event

COURTESY PHOTO: KRISTINA SAUL - Volunteers with the St. Helens band program help cyclists at a pit stop station during the annual Seattle to Portland biking event. The band program hosts a pit stop at the high school campus in St. Helens each year, and proceeds from the event help benefit the program throughout the year. Several community groups in Columbia County benefited from the annual Seattle To Portland bike ride that draws up to 8,000 cyclists.

While the focus of the event, which was held on July 13-14, is often on the cyclists as they travel more than 200 miles through Washington and Oregon, many local organizations were positively impacted by the program.

Along the route, which follows Highway 30 through Rainier, Deer Island, St. Helens and Scappoose, the St. Helens High School campus served as one of five official pit stops. At each pit stop participants could rest, get something to eat, and tend to bike repairs.

The main volunteer pool at the high school were members of the St. Helens band program, including parents, students and supporters of programs. The annual STP pit stop is one of the band's largest fundraisers of the year.

The St. Helens band program has been involved in the annual event for more than 25 years. Organizers with STP pay the band to host to the pit stop, and supply food, which is then served to those who stop in.

Additionally, the band sells concession items and riders will often leave cash tips at the pit stop. While final numbers are still being totaled, band director Noelle Freshner estimates the band collected close to $2,500 from those two sources alone, on top of the payment from STP. Additionally, local businesses like Market Fresh and Stan's Refrigeration, donated bottled water and ice.

Micky Scholl, a St. Helens resident who had children in band years ago, and also currently has grandchildren in the band program, helped make some of the early connections between STP organizers

and the St. Helens band program.

In the early 1990s, Scholl and several friends set up a lemonade stand near Deer Island to support the cyclists as they came through town. At the time, her husband was also taking part in STP, she explained. After hosting unofficial stops for several years, organizers from the Cascasdes Bicycle Club asked Scholl to help find a nonprofit group in St. Helens who would be willing to run a full pit-stop during the cycling event.

"They asked if I could find a group, and suggested something like the football team. We'd need like 50-60 people to run this. And everybody always suggests the football team," Scholl said. "But immediately, because my youngest was in the band at the time, I said, 'What about the band?'"

Every year since, STP has continued to partner with the band program to host the pit stop. This year a crew of volunteers worked more than 132 shifts of four to 12 hours throughout the weekend to help the cyclists.

"STP has been a great success this year due to all the volunteers who had the ability and stepped up and took on multiple shifts. With out everyone's help with these (fundraisers) we would not have the program we have today with the manageable fees," Kristin Saul, the band patrons' public relations officer, said.

The St. Helens band program and St. Helens Band Patrons group host a number of fundraisers during the year to help offset the costs to individual students who want to take part in band.

While the band program may be a major financial beneficiary of the annual STP bike ride, the community as a whole also benefits from the event, Saul explained. Any food left over after the event is donated to places like the Columbia Pacific Food Bank and the St. Helens Recreation program.

This year, they donated leftover bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, loaves of bread, popcorn, pretzels, fruit snacks and cookies to the two groups.

"It benefits not only the band, but the whole community," Scholl said.

Saul said when visiting with cyclists at the event, she often talks about the community too, and encourages them to come back and visit.

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