Frisbees, cyclists and motorcyclists flew on Saturday, as the day’s sunny sky and comfortable temperatures set the ideal stage for members of the Buffalo-area community to raise money for surrounding charities.
Fierce competition piled into North Tonawanda’s Gratwick Hose Company picnic grounds for the 24th Annual KanJam World Championship, while just down the road, bikers lined up to do a motorcycle run to benefit the Buffalo City Mission. With a finish line set in Chestnut Ridge Park, another set of cyclists peddled vigorously through the Southtowns on 15- to 100-mile routes for Bike MS, an event hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Brothers Eric and Dan Klavoon, who are three-time KanJam world champions, spent their Saturday aiming to grab hold, again, of the championship title they lost last year. Dan, who grew up in the area, now makes the trek every year from Maryland to team up with his brother – under the team name The Rebel Survivors – in the all-day frisbee competition.
The tournament drew 112 teams, bringing in players from Canada, New Jersey and even Kentucky. The event’s proceeds support the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the North Tonawanda Police Athletic League.
“It’s very competitive,” said the KanJam company’s co-owner Mitch Rubin. “But KanJam is a game of high sportsmanship.”
The championship is always held in North Tonawanda because that’s where the game, which has players aim frisbee discs into garbage can-like containers, was created. KanJam, which is manufactured in Buffalo, is now sold in more than 3,000 retail outlets.
Eric, who is glad the tournament has a charitable component, met his fiancee, who is also an avid player, at the annual competition and said he was excited to vie for this year’s set of bragging rights.
While the KanJam competition roared, motorcycles rumbled as 110 riders made their way through a 50-mile stretch in Niagara County. Since the motorcycle run’s inception seven years ago, the event has raised a total of $94,000 for the Buffalo City Mission, according to Aubrey Calhoun, the director of Cornerstone Manor, the Buffalo City Missions’s women and children’s shelter.
Calhoun said the mission was just a few-hundred dollars away from this year’s $25,000 goal midway through the event.
Rene Robert, famed former Sabre, led the brigade of grizzled biker vets and corporate and casual riders. All the money generated through riding fees, a raffle and corporate sponsorships goes to the mission’s after-school program held at Cornerstone Manor.
“The bikers are really generous,” Calhoun said. “And some of the riders are people we’ve helped throughout the years.”
The day’s weather was perfect for traditional cycling, according to David Bauser of Williamsville, who participated in Bike MS. Bauser, who has relapsing and remitting Multiple Sclerosis, completed a 62-mile route.
The event attracted about 60 cyclists and participants ranged from teens and 20s all the way up to 86 years old, according to Bike MS coordinators.
But it wasn’t only local participants crossing the finish line; the event also coincided with the MS Great 8 riders’ seven-day route around Lake Ontario. The group is comprised of 11 cyclists and led by Mike Zimits and Catherine Tsigakos; their extensive trips have already raised $800,000 since they began cycling tours in 2010.
“I want to inspire people with MS to not be afraid and not let MS stop them,” said Zimits, who was diagnosed with the disease 15 years ago. “We can do what we want to do, and MS doesn’t have to stop us.”
Zimits and his fellow riders are hoping to break the $1 million mark with their latest ride.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Upstate New York chapter raised $40,000 on Saturday in its mission to ultimately end MS, a disease that has high prevalence rates in Western New York, according to Stephanie Mincer, the New York chapter’s president and CEO.