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Cycle tour puts family on wheels

On certain days, with just a little wind, the wheeled trailers with two children Steve Gaither tows behind his bike make even level ground feel like a hill.

It’s a sacrifice he’s more than willing to make.

In August, Gaither and his wife, Vivian, of Sequim, will have bigger hills to climb as they pedal 170-plus miles and three mountain passes as part of the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour fundraiser.

The Classic, a noncompetitive ride Aug. 2-4 that takes participants through Snoqualmie, Blewett and Stevens passes, benefits the Rotary Endowment for the Intervention and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The endowment was created to ensure children in communities and their families never are turned away from help they need in the case of sexual or physical abuse.

Charities aimed at helping children are close to the Gaithers’ hearts — the couple has three children — Russell, 3, Trinitylin, 3, and Norman, 5 — who are foster or foster/adopted youths.

“They are not in the system because they were treated well,” Steve Gaither says.

In January, Vivian and Steve kicked around the idea of training for and participating in the three-day bike excursion after talking with Steve’s brother, who has finished the Courage Classic the past 12 years. One problem, among others, was that neither Gaither had been on a road bike for years. Steve had given up road bike riding because of back pain while Vivian hadn’t been on a bike consistently since she was a youth.

“I’ve always been athletic, but I’ve never really been a bicycle rider,” Vivian says. “It’s kind of about trying to take a step forward that is completely new … it’s very freeing.”

The Gaithers also are using the training to heal from wounds left by the passing of their son Christian earlier this year.

“(The training) is saving my life,” Vivian says. “I have something to focus on. It’s a focus, keeps my head clear, so I can work through my grief.”

The Gaithers made the commitment to train for the fundraiser and the training has some bonus benefits. Steve now pedals to Community Head Start to drop off Russell and Trinitylin each day instead of driving his car, cutting the gas the family buys in half. The Gaithers’ new riding kick helps even out the rise of gas costs.

“It’s amazing the savings of riding a bike. I leave five to 10 minutes earlier, I can get anywhere in town,” Steve says. “We’re riding every chance we get.”

The exercise bug hit Vivian hard and she’s added training for a sprint triathlon set for mid-August as well. Both are eyeing a three-day charity ride in the San Juan Islands benefiting the American Lung Association.

But first things first — three days through the mountains in Central Washington, from North Bend to Lake Easton, Cle Elum to Leavenworth and on into Skykomish.

“It’s not a race, not about winning anything,” Vivian says. “I have never seen those passes on a bicycle before. For me … it’s a personal challenge.”

The Courage Classic requires that participants not only make the ride but also raise at least $400 that goes through the endowment to the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma; in 2006, riders averaged $1,200.

At Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Pierce County brings together agencies serving abused children and their families with multi-tiered treatment including medical, prosecution, police, Child Protective Services forensic interview and mental health services. Mary Bridge Hospital officials say one of every three girls and one of every five boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Since 1988, the number of children treated for sexual abuse at Mary Bridge has increased nearly 250 percent. Each year, the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge treats more than 550 sexual assault patients, and social workers handle more than 11,000 phone calls from parents.

“We feel it’s a very needy cause,” Steve says. That cause, and the three young children he and Vivian care for, keeps them focused.

“We’ve been able to raise some funds for kids,” Vivian says. “This is a great way to do it.

It seems as though the Gaithers are getting as much as they give.





Courage Classic Bicycle Tour

What: Three-day, 172-mile ride through Snoqualmie, Blewett and Stevens mountain passes

Why: Raise money for Rotary Endowment for the Intervention and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect

When: Aug. 2-4

Where (start): North Bend

Web site: www.courageclassic.org

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