Heartfelt moments created at Bike the Barn Quilts

Event encourages healthy activity, supports local charities
By: 

Megan Mulholland, Special to the Leader


Contributed Photo Maureen “Muffy” Culhane runs past one of the mini quilts during the 5K run/walk portion of Bike the Barn Quilts in Shawano on Sept. 30. Culhane had extra motivation to get moving outdoors on the recent fall morning. She is the board president for SAM25, one of three nonprofits that benefit from money raised by the event.

After working behind the scenes last year, Maureen “Muffy” Culhane took the next step in the colorful Bike the Barn Quilts fundraiser in Shawano County this year.

Culhane, a pharmacist at ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano for over 26 years, ran the 5-kilometer distance of the run/walk while still directing that portion of the fifth annual event Sept. 30.

“It’s a fun way to celebrate fall,” Culhane said. “It’s a beautiful time of the year to be outside, and it’s nice to promote healthy activity.”

ThedaCare has sponsored Bike the Barn Quilts since the start. The event features seven bike routes of 5 to 70 miles with scenic views of more than 300 decorative barn quilts that hang on barns throughout Shawano County. Organizers added the run/walk last year as a way to get more people, especially families, active outside while supporting the community.

Dr. Angela Divjak, a family physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano, joined Culhane among the over 325 participants in this year’s event.

“The event is my yearly ‘must do,’” Divjak said. “It was so nice to see colleagues and patients alike participating in this event.”

Culhane had extra motivation to get moving outdoors on the recent fall morning. She is the board president for SAM25 — one of three nonprofits that benefit from money raised by Bike the Barn Quilts.

SAM25 is an acronym for Shawano Area Matthew 25 Inc. The organization advocates for needy residents, providing them community resources and assistance in an effort to get them to become self-sufficient. SAM25 also operates SAM’s House, an overnight emergency shelter that is open from November through March. ThedaCare has funded programs for SAM25 to increase awareness of poverty and homelessness in the Shawano area.

“I’m glad we’re able to help those that need it because there’s lots of folks struggling out there,” Culhane said.

SAM’s House took in over 130 homeless individuals its first two years, including 25 children. Support systems also are in place at the Boys & Girls Club of Shawano and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin for kids from the Shawano area who are faced with adversity, have self-esteem issues or just need some guidance and friendship as they develop physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually.

Proceeds from Bike the Barn Quilts are split among the three organizations.

“We’re trying to get people to understand that with all three groups there’s a really strong correlation between the population that needs those services and if you help one you help the others,” said Matty Mathison, who coordinates Bike the Barn Quilts for Shawano Pathways.

The nonprofit Shawano Pathways has developed a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails that link several parks in Shawano County.

Thanks to the boost in participation by giving noncyclists a chance to be active and contribute to the cause through the run/walk, each of the three charities received over $1,300 in 2016.

Proceeds for those organizations were projected to be larger this year after the big turnout, which included more than 60 in the run/walk. Participants in the bike and run/walk events were encouraged to get pledges beforehand. Money also was raised through an auction of 70 miniature barn quilts made by community members. They painted designs on wood blocks measuring 12 inches by 12 inches, a small-scale reproduction of the huge barn quilts that started popping up on Shawano County farms in 2010.

“Every one of the quilts has a story behind it – some sad, some fun,” Mathison said. “It’s more than just a quilt.”

Mathison is a member of the ThedaCare Community Health Action Team in Shawano. CHAT brings together community leaders to identify and discuss local health issues and develop collaborative solutions.

Fitting for her commitment to go the extra miles in Bike the Barn Quilts this year, Culhane painted a big heart on the mini quilt she created for the auction. She is inspired by the generous spirit of her Shawano County neighbors and ThedaCare, which helped Shawano Pathways produce commemorative cycling jerseys for the fifth year of the event.

“This community has been amazingly supportive,” Culhane said.

Divjak echoed the sentiment, noting the reach and impact made by Bike/Hike the Barn Quilts in its first few years.

“The event draws in people from outside of the Shawano area and demonstrates the beautiful roads, barns and wonderful people of the community that I am a part of,” she said. “It also is a great way to motivate those in the Shawano community to exercise and live a healthier lifestyle.

“Shawano Pathways does a great job with this event and throughout the year in promoting a more active lifestyle. I am happy to support this organization and its efforts.”

Megan Mulholland handles media and public relations for ThedaCare.