Valley Life for All: Running down memory lane with the Strawberry Shortcut
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities. As we all share a new challenge labeled COVID-19, we can learn from our friends and neighbors who have grown strong making their way through a life that has been out-of-the-norm. In this new reality of challenge, they are the leaders.
Special Olympians might have to wait another year to run in one of its signature races this year due to COVID-19. On any given year, approximately 20 Special Olympian athletes, as well as runners around Colorado and other states, run in the Strawberry Shortcut, based out of Glenwood Springs.
This summer would have been the race’s 43rd year of running the 10K, 5K, and the one-mile Family Fun Run, with proceeds going to the Special Olympics.
Although it’s been canceled (or maybe postponed), it’s good to remember what the Shortcut has done for community members with disabilities and for the Special Olympics.
Mike Kishimoto, Glenwood Springs High School’s track coach, who took the reins as race director last year, is currently trying to find a way to make it happen this year “in a low key manner.” Until then, we’ll go back to 1978 when some 200 racers ran the first Strawberry Shortcut. It was a fun, local race that everyone either ran in or watched. Through the years, it got larger and became an official race and needed sponsorship. Enter the Special Olympics, which partnered with the Shortcut about 40 years ago. The race became synonymous with Special Olympics, says Kevin White, who, along with his wife, Joy, ran the race for 11 years.
“For me, the one-mile Fun Run was the most critical part of the race,” says White. “The Special Olympic athletes would line up, some were ultra-competitive, but to watch them . . . I see [Special Olympians] truly get taller during that race. To see the effort they put into the race, it’s brought me to tears every year.”
Josh Chavez and his family have been one of the larger sponsors of the Strawberry Shortcut since 2000, when Josh ran his first race at age 3. “I like to run fast,” says Josh, who is 22 and has Down Syndrome. “Way fast is the best, and running in front of my friends.”
His father, Rick Chavez, also runs the race with his family. “We started sponsoring the race because of Josh. With a child with special needs, this race was something special in the valley. It’s more than just a race, it’s to support the Special Olympics and every kid who will get this opportunity, too.”
With COVID-19 taking the breath away from the race this year, Bill Deter, market president for the Bank of Colorado, still has hope. Since 1993, the Bank of Colorado has been the title sponsor for the Strawberry Shortcut. “The main goal of the race is the Special Olympics. We had well over 20 Special Olympians participating last year,” says Deter. The Strawberry Shortcut donated $5,000 last year to the Special Olympics.
Whether or not the Strawberry Shortcut happens this year, Deter says, “I don’t think the Special Olympics should suffer because COVID came about. If the race doesn’t go off this year, the Bank of Colorado will donate to the Special Olympics what we donated to the Strawberry Shortcut in 2019, which will actually exceed last year’s donation. I would ask [you] to get your sneakers on and run, because this is a totally worthy cause.”
Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or on Facebook.