One of Tim Stowell’s fondest memories of his son Ben is racing to the bottom of a slope on a snowboard.
The father and son had taken up snowboarding together and Ben was starting to get good. The boy liked the sport enough that he even envisioned one day teaching other children how to ride.
“His dream was to one day be a snowboard instructor at Double-H ranch in Lake Luzerne,” he said. “He wanted us to do it together.”
But Ben was also in the final stages of his battle with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of pediatric bone cancer. He died in 2009 at age 9 after a three-year battle with the disease.
Before their son’s death, the Latham couple were planning an organization to assist families contending with pediatric cancer. Ben wanted to help other children fight cancer, his father said, and he wanted their foundation to be a source of happiness.
“One of the things Ben asked us to do with fundraisers for our organization is to always have them be child-friendly, welcoming and fun,” he said.
And that’s why hosting a 24-hour ski marathon at Maple Ski Ridge seemed like a perfect fit for the Green Drakkoman, the foundation Stowell created to honor his son’s memory. Named after an invincible superhero Ben imagined, the foundation provides a support network for families of children with cancer.
“When the opportunity came for us to do this, it was just a perfect fit,” Stowell said as the event wound down on Sunday afternoon. “This is a family-owned bushiness and this mountain is family-centric, so the fit was just a magical connection.”
Now in its third year at the ridge, the marathon attracted roughly 50 skiers and snowboarders this year. The majority were children and teenagers, each of whom raised at least $50 for the event through pledges from friends and family.
The event may generate up to $4,000 for the foundation. More importantly, Stowell said, it generates recognition for the plight of children fighting cancer.
Some of the youths participating in the marathon take the foundation’s mission to heart with their fundraising. Sean McDuffe, 12, of Rotterdam, solicited help for the cause among his teachers at school and at home.
“I got some of it from my teachers, who saw what was going on and wanted to donate to it, and some of it was from my family,” he said.
Skiers and snowboarders participating in the event could score points for a loose competition between participants. Each earned points for the runs they took on the ridge, in addition to other activities staggered throughout the day.
A long day
By Sunday afternoon, many were less focused on the competition than when they’d finally get a chance to tuck into bed. Luca Santabarbara, 12, of Rotterdam, logged more than 150 runs on his snowboard between noon Saturday and noon Sunday, with only an hour of sleep in the lodge at daybreak.
“It’s fun in the beginning but then it gets more and more tiring,” he said, though still not showing fatigue.
Josh Keenan, 15, of Duanesburg, stayed strong until 4 a.m., when a trip to the lodge ended with him nodding out on a picnic table for a couple of hours. Sleep deprivation while being out on the trails from daylight through darkness and through the dawn of a new day is part of the fun, he said.
“It’s cool,” he said, “snowboarding for 24 hours.”