100+ Racers Sweat for a Good Cause Around Echo Lake

E. CHARLESTON- The 19th annual Echo Lake Road race was held Saturday morning at Echo Lake in East Charleston. One hundred and fifty four participated in the event under sunny skies with temperatures in the low sixties.Participants ran or rode bikes 10 miles, which is twice around the lake, or ran or walked five miles.Prizes were awarded and participants enjoyed complimentary refreshments and a massage after the race. Many jumped right into the lake after finishing.The event is a fundraiser for Orleans County Citizen Advocacy (OCCA), a non-profit organization that survives on fundraisers and town appropriations.OCCA was founded in 1988. The organization brings people with developmental disabilities and unpaid citizen volunteers together. OCCA program coordinators introduce the volunteers, called advocates, to people with developmental disabilities, and then provide ongoing support to their relationships.“People with handicaps are usually wounded by society's rejection, isolation and segregation, and by the lack of control they have over their lives. Through one-to-one Citizen Advocacy relationships, people who are devalued and wounded find protection, respect, empowerment and inclusion. As in all relationships, the advocates find their lives enriched as well,” the organization information explains.“Often we assume that needs of people with disabilities are met by the government or social service agencies. In reality, we all have needs that can only be taken care of by caring neighbors and friends. Most often, the Advocate is the only person involved who is not paid to be involved.”In years past, participation averaged at 200. Numbers are down slightly but up about 20 over last year.Program Coordinator Ellen Bowen said that it was a beautiful day and everyone was happy. However, there was a problem with the results as a new system was used. Bowen said next year two systems will be used for race results to eliminate the possibility of a problem, and to provide for quicker results.The next upcoming fundraiser event for OCCA is the 14th annual Terry & Ben Claassen Memorial Northeast Kingdom Lakes Century Tour on Saturday, September 17. Participants bike 25, 50, 75, or 100 miles on paved roads beginning and ending at Crystal Lake in Barton. The event is followed by a barbecue.