Be it the breathtaking views, the fishing, the climbing, the hiking, the skiing, the biking, the chance to get away, or the chance to find something new, Jackson appeals to us all for many different reasons. For Phil Leeds, co-owner of Skinny Skis, it was climbing and skiing that initially pulled him to Jackson during his summers in college. However, he chose to make Jackson his permanent home in 1977 for a different reason. “It really was the people that were the drawing card”. He felt the welcoming community and the wonderful residents was what made this town special, and he wanted to surround himself in that atmosphere. Skinny Skis began the annual Run & Ride around 20-25 years ago as three early season duathlons to promote staying active in the community. It was the perfect way to kick off the spring and just have a fun time. Come hell or high water the race was held, creating an exciting and unpredictable factor to the event.

After a few years, Kate McLaren, a local message therapist approached Phil. She had donated much of her time and services to the Oncology Department at St. John’s Health, and she understood the need of those affected by cancer. Her idea was this; make the Run & Ride a fundraiser and donate all the proceeds to the Cancer Patient Support Fund at St. John’s Health Foundation. Phil loved the idea and jumped on board immediately.

In 1999 the 1st annual Run & Ride for the Cure took place. With 150 people participating every year, from elite athletes to small children, this event really is fun for everyone. The race is a 5k run then a 15k cycling course, available for competive men and women’s teams, as well as a shorter kid’s class and fun class. It is the perfect way to bring the entire community together, help keep the town of Jackson active, and spread cancer awareness.

Since the Run & Ride for the Cure began it has contributed $191,000 to The Chemo Patient Fund to aid cancer patients financially. By helping to pay for medications, medical bills, lodging, therapy, even gas cards this fund can relieve the unimaginable stress these people feel, and allow them to begin the long healing process. Phil understands the effect he is having all around the community, “Lots of things happen on a national level, but funding goes to research, this goes to cover the need locally”.

With the Run & Ride he is able to get local businesses to take part in sponsoring the race and support many people in the community that are fighting for their lives. He recalls a story that reminds him why he puts on this event: A few years ago Kate Mclaren, one of the founding sponsors, was at a party with Carol Poole (Oncology Nurse). She came up to Kate and asked, “May I tell you how your fund helped someone today?” She then told Kate about a 20 year old young man who had testicular cancer and needed chemotherapy five days a week. It was really harsh treatment that came with horrendous nausea. He and his mother were from out of town and were camping up in Curtis Campground during the treatment, due to a lack of housing. Carol approached them with the idea that Oncology could use the Chemo Patient Fund to pay for rooms at the Hitching Post, across from the hospital. The mom burst into tears as they accepted the offer.

Phil feels honored to be able to put on this race for the community and do everything he can to raise money for the Chemo Patient Support Fund. Because of the wonderful cause, and all that the Run & Ride for the Cure stands for, Phil has no intention of slowing down, and envisions this race continuing for years to come.

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