Upwards of 100 people attended last week’s Let’s Connect kickoff party and ribbon-cutting extravaganza at the downtown Perry Welcome Depot. The event featured a ribbon cutting for the Big Bike, addresses by notable promoters of the Perry-to-Woodward bike trail connection and the solution to a mystery — the identity of the $100,000 matching-funds donor.
The Let’s Connect committee is working hard to raise the $5 million needed to build the 9-mile connector trail between Perry and Woodward and link the High Trestle Trail (HTT) to the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT). The connector will join two premier recreational trails in Iowa that together attract more than 750,000 users annually to the region.
The link trail will also put Perry in a unique position as a two-trailhead town, with trailheads for both the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the High Trestle Trail.
A highlight of Thursday’s celebration came when Joyce VanKirk and her recently deceased husband, Dallas “Pete” VanKirk, were identified as the previously anonymous benefactors behind the $100,000 matching donation for the connector trail.
Let’s Connect booster Jill Brosnahan introduced Joyce VanKirk and outlined the VanKirk family’s many philanthropic efforts in Perry.
Standing next to the Big Bike, VanKirk presented a big check to Mike Wallace, director of the Dallas County Conservation Board, which is responsible for building the connector. The Let’s Connect fundraising efforts have raised a little more than $100,000 and so secured the VanKirk’s additional $100,000 in matching funds as well.
Let’s Connect and the Dallas County Conservation Board have so far raised about $1.3 million toward the goal, according to Wallace, when the state and federal recreational trails grants are added to the private fundraising totals. Thursday’s Big Bike Kickoff was intended to bring more attention and more dollars to the connector-trail efforts.
From the reaction of the people attending, interest and enthusiasm are growing.
The PHS drum line set the tone for the Let’s Connect event, with a mascot’s-challenge bike race, pitting Rocky the RRVT Raccoon against the Hotel Pattee’s own Mahala McDanel in a sprint in front of the Perry Welcome Depot. McDanel graciously let the fur-bearing mammal win to the general delight of all present.
Perry Mayor Jay Pattee then welcomed donors and guests, and bike trail enthusiast and Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger outlined the importance of the connector trail to all 20 towns on both of the popular trails. The popular trail booster published his thoughts on the afternoon’s events on the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association’s website.
The Big Bike was then officially presented, with Let’s Connect dynamo Cherie Scheib listing the pedigree for each part of the Big Bike. Next came a ribbon cutting, and the switch was thrown to illuminate the 12-foot-tall unit. The new Let’s Connect fundraising sign was also unveiled to general acclaim, a unique design by local artist Betsy Peterson.
Celebrants then repaired to the lobby of the Hotel Pattee for appetizers and a cash bar, where an online donation station and t-shirt station awaited. About $1,000 in small donations were raised at the event, according to sources.
Wallace reminded attendees that online donations are a new feature of the Let’s Connect campaign. “Many of our trail supporters prefer the online option,” Wallace said. Connector-trail supporters can visit the Let’s Connect website for regular updates on the project’s progress.
Interested donors can also look over the online donation packet and form. For more information, contact Wallace by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-465-3577.