Missoula running enthusiasts are planning their first hill climb at Snowbowl next month, an event that will memorialize a young rider lost in a devastating auto accident earlier this summer - and help make his dream of a local BMX park a reality.
Momentum Athletic Training's first hill climb at Snowbowl is planned for Aug. 21; it will benefit the Tanner Olson BMX Memorial Park Fund.
Participants will start the 5.5-mile climb up the Beargrass Highway Trail at 10 a.m. Rhea Dahlberg, co-owner of Momentum, said the climb is open for racers, hikers and joggers alike. A barbecue will follow.
Dahlberg said she hopes to eventually make the event as prestigious as a well-known climb in Vail, Colo.
"Our goal is to make it a yearly event where people come to test themselves," said Dahlberg.
Momentum also wants the race to benefit a different cause each year, beginning with one very close to home. Dahlberg knew Tanner Olson through her son, Cameron Fuller, who was one of the boy's best friends. She is close to Kathy Jackson-Gratton, Tanner's mother.
Jackson-Gratton describes herself as "tough as nails," but that toughness has been severely challenged this summer.
Tanner Olson died July 2 in a car wreck on Highway 93 outside Arlee. Creating the BMX park proved a perfect outlet for Jackson-Gratton's grief, she said.
"It's just trying to make Tanner's dream come true," she said.
Planning for the park started only a week after his death, when Dahlberg and Jackson-Gratton talked about how best to memorialize Tanner. Fundraising began almost immediately. Tanner always talked about building a BMX park with his friends, and Jackson-Gratton wanted to make the park for his friends as much as she did to honor Tanner.
"One of the only ways I've been able to get through this is his friends," she said.
Now she's going to help them fill the biking park need. Missoula currently has no designated BMX parks.
"We usually go ride at the skatepark, but we get kicked out and yelled at," said Liam Mulla, one of Tanner's close friends. "It'll be sick to have a good place to bike without getting hated on."
Donna Gaukler, director of Missoula Parks and Recreation, was approached by Jackson-Gratton to help find a location for the park. She is completely behind the plan.
"It's a good way for people of all ages to be active, outdoors, working their body, refreshing their minds and having fun - which is what Parks and Rec is all about," Gaukler said.
Gaukler and Jackson-Gratton will meet soon to discuss possible locations. Jackson-Gratton wants the park to be centrally located, easily accessible to kids and near other park amenities. Gaukler hopes to have kids help design the BMX area like they did the skatepark.
"I see us doing invitations of all ages, but particularly around Tanner's age, and working with a professional who works with designing mountain bike parks," said Gaukler.
Once the place and design of the park are nailed down, a goal can be established for the memorial fund. For now, Jackson-Gratton, her family, her friends and Tanner's friends are just raising as much money as they can.
Their first fundraiser was two weekends ago at the Marshall Mountain cross-country nationals. They raffled off a BMX bike and sold T-shirts, wristbands and water bottles with either the slogan "I ride for Tanner" or their logo. They have raised $4,000 in two weeks.
The memorial fund's logo is a silhouetted picture of Tanner doing a trick on his bike.
Jackson-Gratton laughed as she said, "We think Tanner would say, ‘That's not a good enough trick to be showing.' He was a huge daredevil."
Mulla said Tanner was "crazy, I guess." He had no fear and had a lot of natural talent for sports, particularly BMX.
"The first day he was just really good at it," said Mulla.
He also easily made friends.
"He was one of those kids where, anywhere he went, people would remember him," said Jackson-Gratton. "He was just a gregarious little guy."
And now people will never forget him, thanks to his mother and friends. Mulla said if Tanner could see what they're creating for him, he would be stoked.
"He would've loved to have a bike park and he would've loved all the attention," he said.
To see updates about the fund, visit the Tanner Olson BMX Memorial Park page on Facebook. Visitors can buy swag with a wall request or donate to the fund at First Security Bank.