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Battle of the beards

This part of Spring Fling, the Dungeness River Center's 2009 fundraiser, has taken on a life of its own.

They call it the "Bearded Biker Challenge."

Powell Jones can't recall how it all started, but he does remember challenging center director Bob Boekelheide to raise the most money for Spring Fling by putting his facial hair on the line.

The idea, Jones says, is simple: get enough peoples' support and ride his bike like crazy, he keeps the beard. (And, better yet, Boekelheide loses his.)

"My goal is $3,000," says Jones, the center's education coordinator.

"Mine is $3,000 and a penny," Boekelheide chimes in. "Whatever it takes."

The good-natured ribbing is all part of the Spring Fling's feel-good fundraiser approach.

Dozens of Dungeness River Center advocates are finding interesting ways to increase their fitness levels and put their fundraising skills to good use. All 2009 Spring Fling funds go to supporting education programs and maintenance at the river center.

Individuals and groups are lining up to participate in the fundraiser that started May 1 and ends June 10.

Some people are calling it a "walk-a-thon," while others are running, hiking or, like the river center staffers, using a bike.

Some have been excessively creative, said Julie Jackson, a river center volunteer. Some river center supporters are doing triathlon events - running, cycling and swimming - while others are doing kayaking and other nontraditional modes of transport. Others are counting birds instead of logging miles.

"I think some of these activities will be more popular next year," Jackson said.

Additional Spring Fling activities begin on May 10 with a "Mother's Day Meander" in Railroad Bridge Park, led by Lyn Muench, team captain of the Spring Strollers.

Doug and Gretha Davis have their own hiking team and are recruiting others to join their hiking cause. See other group efforts and contact information on the river center's Web site at www.

dungenessrivercenter.org.

While folks are out going the distance, their sponsors are paying for each mile.

Jackson said she hopes to see the Spring Fling bring in about $20,000 in all.

Boekelheide said it costs about $35,000-$40,000 each year to run the educational programs at the park at the end of West Hendrickson Road.

Apart from the numerous community programs, the river center hosts a number of youth education programs in conjunction with five school districts (Sequim, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Chimacum and Joyce).

"(This will help) in this day and age where field trips aren't always paid for," Boekelheide said.

The concept for Spring Fling grew from the one-day walk-a-thon/bike-a-thon the river center held in June 2007 and 2008. Jones biked the Olympic Discovery Trail from Blyn to Lake Crescent and back (73 miles) and raised more than $2,000 for the River Center.

"Biking is one of my favorite activities," Jones said. "Spring Fling is great way for me and others to raise funds and have fun while getting fit for a good cause."

He upped the ante this year, scheduling rides from his home in Blyn to the center and a 24-hour mountain bike race on Memorial Day weekend.

Jones is targeting 300 biking miles and one mass of facial hair, courtesy of Boekelheide.

The center's director said he doesn't ride often - but shaves even less often. He estimated he hasn't been clean-shaven since 1973.

"I think the person who's most distressed is my wife," Boekelheide says with a grin. "This is our 22nd year of

marriage. She's never seen me without a beard."

Jackson said she isn't taking sides in the Bearded Biker Challenge.

"I'm donating to both," Jackson said.

The Jones vs. Boekelheide challenge coincides with Bike to Work month (May) and concludes on June 10. The winner of the challenge will get to keep his beard for another year until, presumably, the next Spring Fling.

A Spring Fling Awards Frolic is scheduled for 3-6 p.m. Saturday, June 20, at the Dungeness River Center, where one bearded biker loses his beard.

Event business donors include Mike's Bikes and Dungeness Kids Company.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.



2009 Spring Fling

What: A fundraiser for Dungeness River Center

When: Through June 10

How to participate or contribute:

see www.dungenessrivercenter.org

More information: call 681-4076 or e-mail to:

rivercenter@olympus.net





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