Hundreds bicycle Whidbey for hospital

Oak Harbor residents Branden and Pati Barnes, both 8, ride behind their big sister Hannah, 9, before starting out on the Tour de Whidbey’s 10-mile course at Coupeville High School Saturday.  - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor residents Branden and Pati Barnes, both 8, ride behind their big sister Hannah, 9, before starting out on the Tour de Whidbey’s 10-mile course at Coupeville High School Saturday.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

Blessed with sunshine and a hefty turnout, organizers are calling Whidbey General Hospital Foundation’s ninth annual Tour de Whidbey a great success.

According to Executive Director Laura Blankenship, about 470 people pedaled, coasted and sometimes walked in Saturday’s fundraiser, which included a total of six courses that spanned the breadth of Whidbey Island. The 10-mile race, geared for those of all ages and abilities, proved one of the more popular with over 100 people participating.

“We had a lot of families turn out,” Blankenship said. “It was great.”

One of those families was the Barnes clan from Oak Harbor. Before starting out from the Coupeville High School parking lot, Branden Barnes, 8, said he wasn’t worried about the 10-mile ride before him. But while he said he was sure he would make it, he wasn’t so sure about his sister Pati, also 8.

“Maybe not her,” Branden said.

His older sister, Hannah, 9, was also ready for the race, although it was obvious that her focus wasn’t just on the finish line.

“We’ll probably stop for ice cream,” she said.

Trent Barnes, a sailor at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said they are an active family and expected everyone to make it with little trouble. They prepared for the event with a recent five-mile ride near their home. He also confirmed that they may stop for ice cream, but that it wasn’t sweets that attracted him to the family’s first Tour de Whidbey.

“We’ve known about it for years,” he said. “It was the right time because I was home and it was something to do as a family.”

Another big draw to the 10-mile course was the adaptive bicycle demonstration. Through an agreement with the Seattle-based nonprofit Outdoors for All, people with varying degrees of physical disabilities were able to borrow specially built bicycles. Josh Clark of Oak Harbor got the “green machine.”

“It’s fast,” said Clark, after a spin around the parking lot.

Clark’s been wanting one for a while but they are expensive, usually in the range of a few thousand dollars, he said. The chance to borrow one and ride alongside his brother was a special treat, he said.

The event also appears to have been a success financially. The pennies are still being tallied, but Blankenship said she believes even more money was brought in this year than the $50,000 raised in 2009 for the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation.

“We may bump over that because of people’s goodness the day of the event,” she said.

Attendance was actually down from the 505 people that turned out last year. However, Blankenship said it seemed that personal donations and merchandise purchases, such as clothing sales, were particularly high. Combined with the regular registration proceeds, she said she was relatively sure they would break the $50,000 mark.

That’s good news for both the nonprofit and the hospital, said Tom Tomasino, CEO of Whidbey General Hospital.

Profits from the annual race allowed the nonprofit group to buy the hospital a new ultra-sound machine for the obstetrics department in 2009, and this year they contributed to a urological endoscopy digital imaging system.

“This is just a fantastic program,” Tomasino said. “They (nonprofits such as the foundation) are incredibly important for a community hospital.”

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