WALA Endurance Challenge nets over $9,000
Not only was this year's event the most profitable in the amount of money raised, founder Randy Fossum said, "it was the best WALA yet."
“WALA has become more than just a fund-raising project. WALA, more importantly, brings people together," he added.
Fossum suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident in 1980 that left him paralyzed. A year after the accident, friends presented Fossum with a racing wheelchair and encouraged him to continue his hobby of bicycle riding.
The ride has gained in popularity as well as donations. All proceeds from WALA go back into the community through literacy and reading programs at the library, the Homework Academy for Chester schools, Elks Crippled Children's Fund, Elks scholarship fund, and an annual contribution to the ABC Center in Chester that provides assistance for those with disabilities, and other agencies that assist the disabled.
Fossum recognizes that WALA, as part of the Elks Lodge No. 2626 in Chester, is able to donate to the community. The ride also brings people together to accomplish goals, make life-long friends and become inspired by the strength of others.
"There are a lot of great stories behind the scenes," said Fossum. "For example, my brother and I have both experienced spinal cord injuries, and this year we were able to cycle the lake together for the first time. My old friends Bob Crabtree and Jerry Heinrichs, who were instrumental in raising money for my first racing wheelchair, came up from San Jose to become part of WALA and were moved by the experience.”
As the riders moved around Lake Almanor, participant Matt Bailey noticed that Michael Arbsland was watching the riders intently from the Plumas County Transit bus, driven by volunteer Bill Eggert. Arbsland was recently injured when a large, industrial sign he was hanging broke loose and fell on his chest.
"Newcomer Matt Bailey turned his handcycle over to Michael Arbsland, who is working hard to overcome life-changing spinal cord injuries. Michael happily rode a segment of the course thanks to Matt’s generosity. That gesture brought a number of people to tears, including Michael’s mother,” said Fossum.
A nationally acclaimed rider who has been with WALA almost since the beginning is Patrick Cottini of Quincy.
“Seeing Patrick Cottini back at peak performance once again pleased everyone," said Fossum.
He explained, "It has taken Patrick nearly five years to overcome life-threatening illnesses. This year Patrick has shown that he is a force to deal with in the United States Handcycle Federation racing circuit. Patrick won the Rocky Mountain Omnium paraplegic division, finishing well in Reno’s Tour de Nez and completing Alaska’s 267-mile Sadler’s Ultra Challenge.”
Cottini has been an inspiration to others who have taken up the sport and has made connections that have exposed competitors from other areas to WALA.
Many riders like Lynette Tarantino, Tatum Megli and Nick Covarrubias have returned to be a part of the event for many years. This event has helped so many others overcome disabilities to live more active lives.
Newcomers Allison Nicola, brought in by Cottini, and Matt Bailey were incredible added support for the event that challenged anyone with a handcycle or bicycle to keep up with them and their relentless stamina.
The Elks Lodge also donated $925 to WALA from its annual spaghetti feed and pig races Sept. 15.
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