Steller, Community Foundation hold 3rd circumnavigate Whidbey event

James Steller’s passions include competing in long-distance events and supporting Coupeville schools.

For the third consecutive year, Steller will combine those two elements while organizing a circumnavigate Whidbey Island event that doubles as a fundraiser for the Community Foundation for Coupeville Public Schools.

The first two years raised nearly $35,000 for the foundation, which provides grants for Coupeville teachers.

“We can fully support $30,000 in grants for the 2019-2020 school year, and that is not including whatever we will raise this (year),” he said.

Steller is aiming for $20,000 in donations through this summer’s circumnavigate Whidbey, which is Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

“The past two years we tweaked the format each time to make it different,” Steller said.

The first year, he attempted a three-day solo run around the outer roads of Whidbey, a distance of 160 miles. Steller, however, landed in the hospital when his body broke down after the second day. Community members jumped in to complete the final 62 miles.

Last year, Steller invited Andy Wyman, Greg White and Neil Rixe to tag along; split the course into four disciplines — running, biking, kayaking and swimming; and reduced the event to two days.

This year, they will drop the kayaking.

“When I eliminated the kayak portion and looked at the distance, it basically showed itself to be two half Ironman triathlon distances,” Steller said.

A half Ironman includes running 13.1 miles, biking 56 miles and swimming 1.2 miles.

The event will begin at Coupeville and loop around South Whidbey the first day and then cover the north end of the island on day two.

Steller, Wyman, White and Rixe are back for year three, and others are invited to join.

“I am encouraging folks to contact me if they are interested in getting involved at all,” Steller said. “It is a fundraiser first and an adventure second.

“There are quite a few folks who have asked about doing parts of it, and I am up for that as well.”

The easiest way to get involved, he said, is to join the group for a six-to-seven mile run at the start of each day.

“Another great part is joining us at Cranberry Lake for a one-mile swim and then a trail run through Deception Pass and Hoypus.”

Steller is willing to put his body through this grind because he and his wife, Holley, “absolutely love the teachers and the difference they have made” for their son Grant and the community.

Several years ago, the Stellers were looking for ways to contribute and discovered the foundation, which “spoke to our core values.”

Then came, “What can I do to help?” That resulted in the idea to circumnavigate Whidbey.

In conjunction with the event this year, the foundation will host the Summer’s End Coupeville Community Potluck at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, at Coupeville Town Park. Those circumnavigating the island should finish their trek at the park about an hour into the picnic.

The potluck is open to everyone, Steller said. “It is a nostalgic idea where folks can come together to catch up on the summer, and it is the Coupeville Schools Foundation’s opportunity to thank our community for their amazing support.”

To learn more about the foundation, circumnavigate Whidbey or the community potluck, visit

To donate directly to circumnavigate Whidbey (all contributions go to teacher grants), visit