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Birkebeiner Raises $173,901 in Challenge Grant

Tue, Oct  23, 2007 - By Leslie Hamp & Cherie Morgan

HAYWARD, Wis. The numbers are in, and they’ve exceeded the $65,000 matching challenge issued to the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) by John and Leslie Taylor and family from Madison, Wis.

An elated Ned Zuelsdorff, ABSF Executive Director, today announced the fundraising challenge to raise more than $65,000 in 30 days was exceeded.

“I am overwhelmed and pleased to announce our grand total is $173,901,” he said. “We issued the challenge and people responded in a big way. It’s incredible.”

A total of $103,901 was donated by 423 donors including individuals, organizations and businesses, and another $5,000 was committed from Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau. With the Taylors’ donation of $65,000, numbers topped out at $173,901.

Donations streamed in beginning September 15 and escalated in the final days of the campaign in the race to match the Taylors’ $65,000 challenge by October 15.

The Taylors issued the 30-day challenge as a way to support the event that annually attracts 7,000 skiers to the 51 kilometer American Birkiebeiner and 23 kilometer Kortelopet and another 2,000 skiers to shorter races and events for youth, families, and recreational skiers.

“We gave people the opportunity to express themselves and invest in the Birkie Trail,” John Taylor said. “The fact that the goal was exceeded by 50 percent is a tremendous example of a community coming together in a healthy show of support.”

John plans to the ski the new Classic Trail during the 2008 event. Leslie has completed 13 Birkies and also plans to participate in the 35th Anniversary events.

Funds raised during the Birkie Challenge will allow completion of the Birkie Classic Trail segment to the High Point food station in 2007 and to Highway OO in 2008. Trail construction will begin in late Spring '08, thanks to the generous response, and the Birkie Classic Trail will be completed in time for the 2009 American Birkebeiner.

Funds from the Birkie Challenge also allow the purchase of a second, large grooming machine to assure quality grooming through the winter and for American Birkebeiner ski races and events. Additional donations are welcomed and would fund trail grooming and the purchase of a larger grooming machine than was originally planned.

“It has been such an exciting month,” Zuelsdorff said. “In addition to the many generous contributions, we also received many personal messages telling us how much people believed in our cause and what the Birkie Trail means to them. We received donations from around the country, and thank everyone who donated. It's interesting that some people donated as a gift for, or in memory of, someone else.”

With the fast and furious fundraising campaign now behind him, Zuelsdorff said he’s excited to move forward. First up?

“We will begin looking for a second large groomer and expect to have one yet this winter in time for the 35th anniversary race,” he said.

To learn more about North America’s largest and most prestigious cross country ski race and 35th anniversary events from February 21-23, 2008, log on to http://www.birkie.com, email birkie@birkie.com or call 715/634-5025.

To donate to the Birkie Challenge Fund, log on to www.birkie.com or send a check to the ABSF at PO Box 911, Hayward, WI 54843. The check should be made out to “ABSF Trail Fund.” The ABSF is a non-profit organization, and donations are tax deductible.

Birkie 2008 is sponsored by Subaru, State Bank of Drummond, Cable Chamber of Commerce, Johnson Bank, Sawyer County Record and Superior Publishing, and other businesses throughout the region and country.