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Rally for Rehab Foundtion raises $100,000

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Roughly 140 people donned masks and beads and roamed the mountains in search of checkpoints for the sixth annual Dual Mountain Rally last weekend.

The charity event raised over $100,000 with all the proceeds going to the B.C. Rehab Foundation to help people with spinal cord injuries.

This year's theme was Mardi Gras and the team who took home the prize for the best costume squeezed into skintight black body suits with their underwear on top. Feather boas, facemasks and painted faces completed the ensemble.

The team, dubbed Still Smokin', was made up of Whistler locals. And in addition to winning the best costume prize, they also won the rally.

Starting early Saturday morning, 29 teams raced over both mountains searching out 22 checkpoints.

At each checkpoint they stopped for a team photo to prove they made it there.

The best team photo prize went to the Wrecking Krewe who decided to bare their bums for the camera despite the chilly temperatures. They did this at the checkpoint near the buried bus at the bottom of the halfpipe on Whistler.

The Wrecking Krewe was made up of four participants. Two were from Victoria, another from Saskatchewan and Teri Thorson, the project co-ordinator with B.C. Rehab.

Thorson was the only wheelchair participant in the contest.

"It was my third time as a sit skier," she said. "It was quite challenging."

Because the rally covers most of the mountains, Thorson was going to places on her sit ski that she has never been before.

"For me it was a lot more difficult than what I'm used to... I'm used to just doing the Olympic Run. I've done that 500 times!"

But she didn't fall once and her team made it to all of the checkpoints over the course of the day.

Most of the teams found the various checkpoints. But the winners made it to the bonus places, which are a little more challenging to find.

"That's where the coaches are critical because all the coaches are local," said Don Andrews, the corporate liaison with the B.C. Rehab Foundation.

Each of the 29 teams was paired with a coach to guide them over the mountains. Some of these coaches are well-known skiers and boarders in the community who know the mountains like the back of their hands.

Local involvement is crucial for the success of the event, said Andrews.

"The ongoing focus is to continue to build the support in the Whistler community itself," he said.

The rally usually takes place during high season and participants from Vancouver sometimes have a hard time finding accommodation for the weekend.

"Whistler support is critical because of the cost of staying there."

He also added the charity is one that is particularly significant for Whistler because of the local lifestyle.

Most Whistler residents know about someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury, he said.

This year there was more local support than in previous years due to raised awareness about the rally.

The total raised is also up from last year by about $20,000.

Each participant had to raise $250 to be able to enter the event.

Team Non Stop raised the most money this year with just under $6,200. And Scott Roberts from Mountain FM won the best panhandling prize on the day of the rally by getting roughly $300 from people around town and on the mountain.

The money goes towards improving the lives of spinal cord patients through research, arts and recreation, education and wellness programs.

Thorson was surprised that she was the only sit skier out this weekend.

"I would have liked to have seen more," she said.

"I think next year I'll get a bunch of my friends to get out there."

Andrews said there have been more sit skiers in the past but this year some of them are heading to Salt Lake City to take part in the Paralympics which are due to begin on March 7.

The Dual Mountain Rally could not have been as successful without the help of Whistler-Blackcomb and all the volunteers, including the coaches, he said.

Also, there was a lot of support from corporations who donated money and prizes.

The rally ended with a Mardi Gras theme party on Saturday night at the Westin Resort and Spa.

The Rally is the B.C. Rehab's number one fund-raiser throughout the year.

Next year's rally is already in the tentative planning stages and the date will be announced soon.

Andrews is telling people in advance to think "Blue Hawaii."

"It's a combination of Elvis and Hawaii. We’re hoping everyone gets lei-ed next year!"

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