By Amy Ash Nixon

Staff Writer, Caledoniain-Record

June 1, 2020

BURKE — A pandemic couldn’t stop a decades-old tradition at Burke Mountain Academy to end the school year with an athletic challenge to do good.

The Green Mountain Run – a relay from the Massachusetts to the Canadian border – was disrupted this season for the second time in its history (the first time was after Hurricane Irene). But seniors figured out a way to host a virtual challenge, and conducted independent athletic challenges.

The challenge raised $28,000 by mid-week, said school spokeswoman Jodi Flanagan. The event’s proceeds will benefit the Vermont Foodbank.

BMA, an independent ski racing high school, had to send students home due to the pandemic in March. But Flanagan said seniors organized the virtual challenge this year, “since we couldn’t all be together for the Green Mountain Run that we usually do every year.”

“It’s a huge tradition at our school; it’s been going on for more than 40 years,” said Willy Booker, head of school at BMA. “It’s a very big physical exertion, it’s this kind of euphoric exertion for the kids.”

The senior class challenged all the students, and whatever staff wanted to participate, to conduct their own unique athletic challenge on Memorial Day “to really push their athletic limits,” said Booker, and the students wanted to use the opportunity to help “people who are really suffering as a result of the pandemic and they chose the Vermont Foodbank.”

“The kids just came up with these incredible things,” and a fundraising page was created and shared on social media, said Booker. Current families, as well as alum and their families donated and the event far surpassed the original expectations. “Everybody really felt connected for the day and connected in a common goal. We were really proud of the kids.”

Student Stories

Ollie Morgan, 18, a BMA senior from Etna, N.H., was “in charge of setting up the fundraising site and making a video to get people excited about the event,” he said.

“This was my first time setting anything like this up so I really didn’t know what to expect,” Morgan shared. “When I first published the fundraiser, the goal was set at $5,000.”

He said, “Within a few hours we had gone through that number!”

“I kept making the goal higher and higher, and every time we were past it within a few hours,” reported Morgan.

“Even though this wasn’t the same thing as Green Mountain Run (GMR), it was definitely a great substitute that will benefit many people in Vermont,” said Morgan.

Gray Flanagan, 18, of West Burke, said “This year we were all really bummed about not being able to do our typical Green Mountain Run, and we had options to do it virtually, but we thought that wouldn’t bring us together as much and wouldn’t truly embody the GMR spirit.”

A challenge that could be shared on social media — and which would benefit a charity — was chosen to fill in for this year’s run, said Flanagan.

“We decided GMR isn’t about running, it’s about the fun you’re having, even collapsing on the ground when your run is complete” said Flanagan,.” We wanted people to choose an activity that they enjoyed and challenge themselves to push it to the extreme.”

He said, “I really enjoyed the fundraising aspect because as I saw the donations coming in, I got increasingly more excited for the event. I went for a 100-mile bike ride, then rode 17 miles with my family afterward, all within the 8-hour window.”

BMA senior Annaliese Fleck, 18, from Jackson Hole, Wyo., shared how she helped to raise money through the virtual challenge.

“While it was devastating to not be able to run together, I was really proud of the community for still choosing to try to accomplish athletic feats simultaneously,” Fleck said. “It made me extremely happy to see everyone’s progress and get to sweat together one last time before my class graduates. I was even more proud of the community when we chose to make this event a fundraiser for The Vermont Foodbank.”

Nicholas Czarnik, 18, a BMA senior from New York, did 1,000 burpees, with a twist.

“I started at the Lincoln Memorial and reflection pool, then went to the Washington Monument, followed by the White House, then I went to Capital Hill and did it in front of the Congress building, and I finished my journey at the Jefferson Memorial and the Potomac River,” Czarnik said.

“It was an awesome experience because a lot of veterans came up to me saying that they were impressed, and when I told them what our school was doing, they wished us all the best and were amazed at our work and the examples we were setting for the people around us… They were also overwhelmed with joy to see that highschoolers were still doing different activities to give back to their communities.”

VT Foodbank CEO John Sayles with a thank you message to BMA
Vermont Foodbank Update