Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eco-run honors skier, promotes ecology


It was a misty Sunday morning as some 60 runners gathered to honor Willie Neal, a Nordic skier killed in a roller skiing accident in 2009, and help raise awareness about environmental initiatives. The second annual event was held in Hulen Meadows north of Ketchum with many runners in their Halloween costumes.

"For those who don't know Willie, he was a young man filled with passion for life, for skiing and for the world," said Brandon Wade, a friend to Neal and organizer of the event. "Willie was very interested in environmental issues. Community education, increasing awareness of climate change issues and promoting environmental initiatives has inspired this race."

Rocky the Squirrel, a jail inmate, Mr. Burns and the Queen of Hearts raced the 5k event.

"I grew up skiing here. A lot of these guys are still ski racing. Willy was one of our friends and we wanted to support the cause," said Hannes Thum, who woke up in his penguin costume after partying the night before and joined the run.

Half a dozen Americorps volunteers attached to the Sawtooth Botanical Garden and the Environmental Resource Center were on hand to talk about projects that are in the works, including emissions-free commuting and bat ecology education.

"Nursing [bat] mothers can eat their body weight in mosquitoes every night," said Amber Gray, a volunteer from Greenwood, Wis., talking about the nine species of bats found in Idaho. "They're crepuscular."

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