Santa Clara BMX hosts fundraiser for special needs racers

ST. GEORGE — Heavy-duty strollers raced alongside BMX bikes Thursday night at the Santa Clara BMX park. Special needs children rode in the $6,000 strollers, laughing as family members ran the strollers across the track.

Visitors donate to Ken Garff St. George Ford’s fundraiser to purchase another BMX-ready stroller, Santa Clara, Utah, Sept. 22, 2022 | Photo by Truman Burgess, St. George News

Ken Garff St. George Ford joined with the track to host a fundraiser for the night, supplying volunteer staff members wearing red shirts to collect donations and officiate the competitive race. 

“Hopefully we create enough awareness to log into people’s heads and ears that there’s more to this than seeing normal kids racing,” said Austin Szatlocky, an employee of Ken Garff St. George Ford. “Now we have opportunities for everyone to ride.”

The goal was to gain funding to purchase additional BMX-ready strollers to rent for special needs individuals to enjoy the track.

The strollers aren’t officially BMX-certified, but they’re equipped with shocks and designed for off-road trails. The interior of the stroller has sturdy padding and safety straps for a comfortable and safe ride, even over Santa Clara’s BMX course.

Brooke Seely, the track manager for Santa Clara BMX, said they need about $80,000 to complete the purchase for renting eight BMX strollers at the track. Her dream is to have an entire row of only BMX strollers for a race heat.

“Obviously we’re not going to raise 80 grand tonight,” Seely said. “If we have to keep doing events like this, we can. The sky’s the limit. We could literally have the Special Olympics here and throw BMX in it.”

The fundraiser gained $3,522 from the night.

Seely explained how hard it is to find activities where special needs kids can openly play and compete with other kids. She said BMX strollers provide that opportunity where the two groups can enjoy a track side-by-side.

There were two donation methods for visitors. A 50/50 donation box collected $10 tickets, providing 50% of the funds to a lucky donator from a drawing, and the other 50% directly to the BMX track for the stroller. There was also a raffle drawing, where $5 ticket-buyers entered to win a pro BMX bike, a junior bike, BMX helmets, gloves and nutrition supplements.

A BMX bike leans on the track’s fence and motto, Santa Clara, Utah, Sept. 22, 2022 | Photo by Truman Burgess, St. George News

The partnership between Ken Garff Ford and Santa Clara BMX began when a Ford employee took her son to race on the track and saw Emery Davis riding the track in her BMX-ready stroller. The St. George Ford team quickly decided they wanted to help the track afford more strollers to rent out to families with special needs and offered their services for charity.

Emery Davis and her friend Demi Leonard, both nonverbal, led the flag lap for Thursday’s race, and they competed against each other as the first race of the night.

Seely said both girls were thrilled to race on the track, each girl having a family member pushing and steering behind her. Davis has been racing on the BMX track for over six months.

Throughout the night, various families took turns placing their special needs son or daughter in one of the BMX strollers and joining a race alongside BMX bikers.

Much of the track is dedicated to Talen Vaughn, Seely’s nephew who passed away recently. Vaughn suffered from an extremely rare developmental disease that made it impossible for him to speak, move or eat. His two younger brothers competed in BMX, and they’d wear jerseys with their older brother’s name printed on them to memorialize him. 

The largest turn on Santa Clara’s track is labeled “Talen’s Turn.” Above the starting line for races, a banner proclaims, “We ride for those who can’t ride for themselves.” The entire track is wheelchair accessible.

All three of Seely’s children compete in BMX, with her 15-year-old daughter beginning basic training around 12 months old, Seely said. All three of the kids help Seely and her husband build the track, opening about two years ago.

Youth BMX riders line up for racing, Santa Clara, Utah, Sept. 22, 2022 | Photo by Truman Burgess, St. George News

In creating a safe BMX environment for kids, Seely said, she focuses a lot on emotional health and how kids treat each other.

“I really want these kids to be good kids,” she said. “I don’t tolerate bullying, and I don’t tolerate cussing from anyone. I teach the parents, also.”

Santa Clara BMX is a nonprofit, BMX-accredited track, funneling the majority of funds raised for racing back into the track’s maintenance and functionality. The track primarily relies on donors to keep running. 

Anyone can rent a BMX bike and helmet for $10 a night. Riders can learn the sport through classes on Tuesday nights and compete in public races Thursday nights. The track welcomes all ages — Seely said a 73-year-old races every week.

“This is the only sport I can think of that grandparents can race with their grandchildren,” she said. “All generations can race together. It’s amazing.”

To donate or learn more about Santa Clara BMX, reach them at [email protected]

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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