“The Last Best Ride Will Evolve Into a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit in its Second Year With 2022 Event Registration Opening on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11th”
The Last Best Ride, Montana’s premier gravel event, is back for its second edition in 2022, with weekend activities starting on Friday, August 19th and culminating with race day on Sunday August 21st.
Race organizer Jess Cerra, a Whitefish local and resident professional cyclist, looks to build on what she considers a wildly successful debut in 2021, which garnered over 550 registrants from all over the United States and Canada who flocked to Flathead County to take part in the event.
“I wanted this event to be something novel and unique that would benefit our community,” remarks Cerra, when asked what her goals were when she created the event. “Not only did I want to use The Last Best Ride to showcase the spectacular riding and natural beauty in and around Whitefish to the burgeoning gravel cycling scene in the U.S. and beyond, but I also wanted to make sure that the event’s existence within the community worked in some way to better the lives of local residents.”
The latter part of Cerra’s aforementioned goal of the event derives largely from her own positive experience with community-based scholarships that afforded her the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education. According to Cerra, “I have always wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” and consequently designed the event largely as a vehicle to fundraise for The Barbara Mansfield Champion Scholar Award, a program created in collaboration with local educators that would direct a portion of proceeds from race registration fees, as well as any supplemental donations, to local, financially-qualified high school women seeking post-secondary education.
Named after Cerra’s high school college counselor, who Cerra cites as one of the driving forces that helped her get into college, the Scholar Award Program raised over $20,000 in 2021 awarded to four local women. For 2022 and beyond, Cerra is working to retroactively qualify The Last Best Ride as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to further grow the scope of the Scholar Award Program.
“By designing the event around the Scholar Award Program, I’ve created an event such that just signing up means registrants play a part in bettering the lives of the locals of the community they visit, regardless of whether they want to donate more or not” says Cerra.
In addition, the Cerra hopes conversion to a 501(c)(3) will bolster the mentorship programs of The Last Best Ride. In 2021, Cerra, through the contributions of sponsors, was able to supply equipment, such as bikes, helmets, tools, and shoes, to 4 local women taking part in the event and coach them as they prepared. For Cerra, the ability to engage with young female athletes is invaluable: “I hope that I can expand on the mentorship capabilities that the event was able to offer in 2021,” says Cerra. “The benefits of sports and bikes brought so much positivity into my life, and I want to share that same positivity with the next generation of young women in the valley.
Registration for the 2022 event formally opens on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11th at 8am PST. If you are a Veteran or active-duty military, you may email your credential to [email protected] for a registration discount code.
To register please go HERE. For more information, visit www.thelastbestridemt.com. If you or any one you know are interested in volunteering, please visit www.thelastbestridemt.com/volunteer to sign up for a position.