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A Decade on the Run

Great Race “Birthday Bash” set to raise record funds for College of Eastern Idaho

Published online: Jul 16, 2018 Articles, Best of IF, Events Steve Smede
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College life is full of challenges, and even the most dedicated students can feel clueless when it comes to bankrolling their higher education. Fortunately for the pupils and patrons of College of Eastern Idaho, it just so happens that challenges and clues are two key components of CEI's signature fundraising event: The Great Race for Education.

What's so wonderful about this event isn't that it's just a fundraiser, 5K run or a golf tournament, notes CEI Foundation Executive Director Natalie Hebard. “It's a unique way to challenge people physically and intellectually,” she said. “It takes a lot of mind-over-matter to get through the event. It's highly rewarding.”

At its heart, The Great Race for Education is a large-scale scavenger hunt throughout downtown Idaho Falls, Snake River Landing and points in between. Teams combine their physical prowess, wits and wallets to emerge victorious. (Think “Amazing Race” – the popular television show on CBS.)

Now celebrating its 10th year, the annual summer shindig has become CEI's signature booster event and an icon of community spirit. School officials note that prior to the race, Eastern Idaho Technical College was lucky to scrape up $1,800 for its fledgling golf scramble.

From the financial boost alone, the success of the event was obvious to the college and its foundation right out of the gate. More than $20,000 in funding was raised in its 2009 inaugural edition, followed by $26,000 in 2010. That year, interest in the new event – and a rekindled enthusiasm for the college itself – became so intense that prospective teams camped out at the school in hopes of securing a slot.

Thanks to steadily growing support and popularity, the race has become a model for how immersive events can provide a win-win for small colleges and the communities they serve.

“On average, we've been able to bring in between $30,000 and $40,000 per year over the last five years,” Hebard said. “My goal for this year is $60,000.” In late May, Hebard said the foundation was well past the half-way mark.

Team entries, team “owner” positions and sponsorships make up the lion's share of the tally.

A team of four is $250; that includes entry for the race and after-party. Team owners are $50 per person, and the number of owners per team is limitless. Teams can (read: should) also buy a special “clue package” that will give the team a tremendous advantage as the race progresses. There is also a Facebook auction the night before the race. That alone raises thousands of dollars through the sale of advantages for your own team as well as disadvantages for your competitors.

“This year we're putting a cap on the number of 4-person teams, limiting it to 34,” Hebard said. “That's really just for chaos-control and safety.” Take one look at the frenzy of activity under the tent, and you'll see the logic in that decision. It's a carnival in there.

On that note, bear in mind that official four-person team slots for the race will likely be filled by the time you read this, but volunteers, team owners and contributors are always in high demand.

Last year's top three teams were Cooper Norman, Progrexion and Fluor Idaho.

For the latest updates on this year's race, check out the foundation's dedicated Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thegreatrace. Also be sure to visit www.ceigiving.org for more details.

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