By Kate Agathon
Can you imagine a race without volunteers? If you can’t, you’re right. Races simply wouldn’t happen without them. Getting up at o’dark thirty and sometimes traveling great distances, volunteers are the heart of any organized sporting event.
Whether they’re standing in the cold handing out cups of water, serving as a back up timer, or waiting for you at the very end to celebrate your PR, volunteers make your race happen.
Volunteers are typically offered minimal pay, or will do it in exchange for a free entry at a future event. Most do it out of altruism, love of the sport, and cheering others on. Others (in the case of Team Evergreen events) do it to raise funds for their respective organizations.
This week, we conclude our two-part series on what takes place behind the scenes at your favorite cycling, running, and multi-sport events by featuring the hard work of volunteers from Team Evergreen and Racing Underground.
To the hundreds of behind-the-scenes people who donate their time to make every event successful, we salute you!
Colorado’s oldest and largest cycling club, Team Evergreen, is well known for organizing some of the state’s largest premiere cycling events, including the Triple Bypass and the Mt. Evans Hill Climb.
What Team Evergreen is also known for is its charitable giving; which is considerable. Through grants and volunteer opportunities, the non-profit has given over $3 million to non-profit, educational, and governmental organizations since its inception. “We are unique and Team Evergreen is altruism at its finest,” proudly said executive director, Jennifer Barbour. In fact, for 2021, Team Evergreen is distributing $500,000; the most they have ever given in its 33-year history.
Unique giving model
Team Evergreen has a unique structure to the events it produces in that donations don’t go to a single cause, but to multiple (large and small) causes, and not all of them directly related to bicycling (e.g. Colorado Canine Rescue).What most people don’t realize is that after operational costs (permits, food and beverage, infrastructure, police support, etc.) Team Evergreen donates everything out. “We donate all of our profits and try to have a zero balance at the end of the year,” Barbour explained.
Event day payouts are typically earned by volunteers, whose hourly wage is a donation to their respective non-profit.”The volunteers make it happen for sure! Any people on the course are aware that your entry is donating to one of their organizations,” she said.
Among other duties, volunteers manage aid stations, hand out medals, and serve as course marshals.
This year’s Triple Bypass alone had over 500 volunteers representing nearly 30 non-profits, ranging from the Special Olympics, to Vail Mountain Rescue, to Conifer High School’s mountain bike team. At the end of the day, a $100K payout was given to Triple Bypass volunteer groups.
Here is a list of all the volunteer groups who helped Team Evergreen in 2021 and received funds: American Diabetes/ Tour de Cure, Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado, Blue Spruce Kiwanis, Boy Scout Troop 1776, Bike Jeffco, Civil Air Patrol Highlanders, Civil Air Patrol Eagle, Colorado Mountain Bike Association, Community Educational Outreach, Conifer HS MTB Team, Conifer Kiwanis, Denver Chorale, EChO, Evergreen High School MTB League, Evergreen Players, Into Your Hands – Africa, Loaves & Fishes, Out Spokin Colorado, Ovation West Performing Arts, PEO,Project Bike Tech, Rotary Club of Clear Creek, Special Olympics, Summit Advocates, Vail Mountain Rescue, Venture Crew 911, Alexander Foundation, Hope for Justice
“The volunteers make the Triple happen; without their dedication and commitment, we would not be able to host such an incredible event. In addition, they allow us to produce a profitable event that contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to non-profit organizations,” concluded Barbour.
Becoming a volunteer
The next Triple Bypass is slated for August 20, 2022. Each year, volunteer group applications are made available on the Triple Bypass web site near the end of March. Volunteer applicants must be from a 501c3, or an educational or governmental group. All volunteers are provided with expectations and given a guide as to what they are to do. The commitment is generally only one day and can be the lead-up, day of, or after-event.
While the Triple Bypass is Team Evergreen’s largest event, they still have numerous volunteers raising thousands of dollars by helping out with The Hundo, Beti Bike Bash, Co2uT, Mt. Evans Hill Climb, and Session Series at Floyd Hill as well.
Giving the gift of time
Dr. Judy Campell, a Graduate Programs advisor at the University of Colorado’s College of Nursing, has been volunteering at events for over a decade. She prefers volunteering her time at individual or family-run running event companies, such as Racing Underground, or Colorado Runner.”
I’m pretty picky and won’t do big corporate events like Rock N Roll, or Ironman. I usually find the events from scouring websites for events that I’m interested in running and then volunteer for the organization later,” she shared.
Campbell has done nearly every task available to volunteers: aid stations, final line, food preparation, late registration, and bib/swag bag distribution. However, she prefers aid station and finish line volunteer positions for their human spirit element.“ Aid station volunteers really get a chance to cheer on people, boost their spirits, and make sure they are doing okay,” she said.
“As a finish line volunteer, to see someone finish their first race or their first half marathon is so amazing. I once literally had a woman cry in my arms after she finished. I am so happy for them and happy that I can help them along that journey,” she continued.
Campbell volunteers at races once a month, and totals over 60 hours a year. Most recently, she volunteered at the Dirty 30 ultra as an aid station worker.“ I can’t even imagine the logistics for that event! It took an army of volunteers!” she marveled as she described the complex logistics involved with getting racers bused in from the Jefferson County Courthouse parking lot, and organizing ham radio operators, multiple aid stations, medics, drop bags, event food, etc.-all with no available cell service.
For Campbell, volunteering within her community of runners is a truly rewarding experience.
“I met someone years ago who said to me that for every race or ride I do, I should volunteer. I thought that was an interesting comment and have really taken that to heart,” she said.”There will always be people who do races and never give back to the community. However, races or rides can’t be done without volunteers. I race, and I appreciate the volunteers so I think I should volunteer so others can race,” Campbell concluded.
Spotlight: Racing Underground volunteers
For a decade, Lisa Cygan and Chris Duarte have been volunteering at most of Racing Underground’s local events. A retired RN, Cygan learned about the volunteer opportunities through Racing Underground’s website, while Duarte was made aware through his experience as a past racer.”
I love helping out and working with the team of Racing Underground! And it’s fun to meet the participants before races,” said Cygan.Cygantypically volunteers for 10 events each year, while Duarte volunteers for 3-4. They both have an affinity for supporting local.
Himself a past racer, Duarte’s motivation to volunteer is to help organizers; “especially local ones like Racing Underground.” In addition, Cygan especially enjoys helping at courses she is familiar with.
“I love the Littlefoot triathlon! I train at the park where it is held, so I am comfortable there,” she said.Each volunteer has favorite assignments. For Duarte, he usually does registration pick up, traffic director, and parking aid. Cygan lists packet pick up, registration, or timing chip hand out as favorites; with occasional awards and clean up. Volunteer perks? Free race entry (which isn’t always used), grabbing the closer parking spots, and hot cocoa.
|Become a Racing Underground volunteerIndividuals or groups interested in volunteering can contact Racing Underground via email at email@example.com.
Volunteers can receive pay (youth groups of 20 or so are paid $750 for their time, individuals $35), or a comp into a future Racing Underground event.
Volunteers will usually be assigned as course marshals. Back up timers, food and packet pickup, and parking are also essential functions. Volunteer assignments are usually confirmed the week prior to race day.