AuSable River Canoe Marathon Committee funds scholarships for three 2017 graduates

AuSable River Canoe Marathon Committee funds scholarships for three 2017 graduates
An organization charged with bringing thousands of people for Grayling’s largest spectator event and drawing  paddlers from throughout the world to test their endurance on the AuSable River is now promoting higher education.
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon Committee decided to establish a scholarship fund at the beginning of 2017.
John Cherven said funding the scholarships for high school students from areas that are tied to the marathon is a way to be proactive.
“It seems like we’re always asking for support  and contributions from businesses and for volunteers, so we just thought we would give back to the community,” Cherven said. 
Cherven served 30 years on the AuSable River Canoe Marathon Committee, but stepped down from his position to get others involved in the huge event. He is leading fundraising efforts for the scholarships on behalf of the committee.
The committee agreed that no money from its general operating funds would be used to finance the scholarships. All amounts are generated from special fundraisers.
For example, an indoor garage sale was held at the Grayling Mini Mall during Memorial Day weekend.
A pop can drive will be held at the Grayling Family Fare on Saturday, July 15.
Leading up to the marathon and during the week of the AuSable River Festival, coin jars will be placed at Spike’s Keg O’ Nails, 7-Eleven, Moore’s Automotive, the Grayling Restaurant, Ole Dam Party Store, and Dead Bear Brewing Co. to collect funds.
Finally, a raffle of an autographed copy of the “First 50 Years” yearbook donated in memory of Al Cherven will be held. The winner will be drawn on the day of the canoe marathon. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5.
The book was completed by Nancy Lemmen and Jon Thompson for the 50th anniversary of the canoe marathon in 1997.
“They only printed 200 and they’re very hard to come by,” Cherven said.
So far, 100 paddlers have signed the book and Cherven plans to gather more autographs prior to the 70th annual AuSable River Canoe Marathon, which will be held on Saturday, July 29.
The committee planned to start off by awarding $250 scholarships this year, but fundraising efforts were so successful that $500 was given to each eligible student.
One scholarship was awarded to Molly Leslie, a 2017 Grayling High School graduate.
Leslie plans on attending Saginaw State Valley University to study pre-med.
“I think the canoe marathon has a big impact on our community, so it’s an honor to get a scholarship from them,” Leslie said. 
Lesile is a relative of the Kolka family, which has deep roots to the marathon.
Her great uncle, Jack Kolka, had 13 consecutive finishes  from 1964 through 1977, according to 
“He entered the race 22 times and finished 18. He earned the Iron Paddler Award in 1972. Jack mentored many young paddlers, who later became marathon champions, including his son Jeff Kolka,” according to 
Jeff Kolka, Leslie’s uncle, is a nine-time marathon champion. Another uncle, Ted Kolka, has competed in the race 18 times, earning a marathon Iron Paddler Award. Leslie’s cousin, Naomi Kolka, has competed in the marathon for last three years.
Leslie has just been a spectator of the race.
“I used to watch the start and follow it for a while, but I never followed it all night,” she said.
 Megan Reinhard, a 2017 graduate from Oscoda High School, received a second scholarship. Oscoda is the ending point for the marathon, where the AuSable River flows into Lake Huron. 
A third scholarship will be awarded to  a graduating senior who is the son, daughter, or grandchild of a marathon paddler.
Cherven said the committee opted to award that scholarship to recognize everyone that is part of the “paddler family” and are not mere competitors.
“It’s a way to give back to the fact that it is a family-type sport,” he said.
The scholarship selection was based on a combination of academic performance and community service. The financial income or assets of the recipient’s family were not factors.
The recipients will be invited to attend the VIP area on marathon night and will be acknowledged in front of the crowd by the emcee as part of the program shortly before the start of the race.
Cherven, who said awarding the scholarships is close to his heart, said the committee raised $2,000 to fund its support of education.
“We got off to a good start with donations,” Cherven said. “We already have a good start on next year’s scholarships and we have other fundraisers that are still coming.” 
Donations may be mailed to the ARCM Scholarship Fund at P.O. Box 911 Grayling, MI 49738 or dropped off at John Cherven’s office in the Grayling Mini Mall. The marathon a non-profit organization, but is not a 501-C3 origination. Therefore, donations are not tax deductible.

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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