Flint Hoyt and Michael Blunck gear up for Sunday’s ride
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
s the Adaptive Sports Center’s final week of the rolling Bridges of the Butte Townie Tour comes to an end, locals and visitors will line the streets, alleys and yes, bridges of Crested Butte on Sunday, September 11 to take part in the main event. Among them will be loyal repeat participants and top fundraisers like Michael Blunck and Flint Hoyt, each with a unique flair for costumery and a passion for Adaptive’s work. Each has a personal connection to Adaptive’s mission as well.
Dragon Team Leo
“My two kids were the ones who got me into it,” says Blunck, who has earned seven buckles for being the top fundraiser in the Bridges events over the years. His official event name is Dragon Team Leo and he has raised more than $50,000 over the years. He broke a new fundraising record of $10,000 last year and says it is looking good again this year with $9,200 raised as of press time.
“For me, it’s just about having fun. I like riding every day. I still like to make it a town event. And like everything else in CB, costumes are recommended,” says Blunck. He prefers to wear his regular clothes but dresses up his bike in a big way.
“About eight years ago, I found a dragon photo on the Internet,” he explains. His wife Lisa created it for his bike, and it has become known as a fixture of the event that returns each year. “And I like all sorts of lights on it, because as I used to say at the 24-hour event, I want to be visible to the International space station.” Blunck recalls one year when he encountered a bear coming out in an alley as he pedaled through, and he feels the lights came in handy. “He was way more spooked than I was,” he reports.
Most of all, Blunck says the Bridges event is a lot of fun, but it is about supporting Adaptive. “I’m really all about raising money for them. I think Adaptive is one of the best programs we have in CB. They do a lot of amazing things for a lot of people,” he says. “And fortunately, I have a big group of people who are willing to help. It makes me happy because my supporters are all part of it.” A lot of other local kids and local legends join him for laps too. “It’s become a social event for some of us,” he says. While he normally rides laps every day of the newer, rolling format, this year he was visiting his son Aaron in the Northwest and plans to make it back in time for Sunday’s big event. But he notes that the virtual aspect is more appealing when travelling afar.
Dragon Team Leo’s name is inspired by Leo True-Frost, a young man in New York whose family is very close with Blunck.
“Leo is the son of a gentleman I grew up with,” he explains. “He was born with severe cerebral palsy and he’s been my motivation.” Leo and his family have gotten involved in an adaptive program up in New York where they live, and Blunck describes the importance of the network available to those who need it.
“And Leo is nonverbal, but there’s nothing like the smile on Leo’s face when he is skiing,” says Blunck. He has hoped for years to have Leo and his family out to ski at Crested Butte Mountain Resort with the CB Adaptive Sports Center.
Flint Hoyt and the Titan
Flint Hoyt is a powerful testament to Adaptive’s ability to change people’s lives, and to allow a family to play together despite one member’s disability. He has won the Mighty Grom award for the kid who fundraises the most money at the Bridges event four years in a row, and he is vying for a fifth.
The Hoyt family moved to the Gunnison Valley in 2017 when Flint was 11 years old. Flint speaks candidly about his autism and recalls that when they lived in Albuquerque prior to that, he struggled a lot. “I was shy of everything. I was scared of school, I made dinosaur noises.”
He describes his first winter here and what a difference it made for him. “Skiing and snowboarding were life changing for me,” he says, “I got so good through skiing, and then snowboarding. The instructors are amazing. They’ve really taught me things and they include a lot of people. Adaptive just helped lift me up.”
Flint adds that now he also regularly enjoys biking, climbing, rafting and paddle boarding with Adaptive. Flint’s mom, Aimee, got involved in the Adaptive program as a parent participant, then as a volunteer and eventually joined the staff as their grants coordinator. “My mom has always stood up for me,” says Flint.
His dad, Matthew, says he also really appreciates that Adaptive offers programming not just for people with disabilities, but for their family members too so they can enjoy activities in tandem if they want to. “They are really great at supporting families,” says Matthew. “That happens a lot for families who come in from out of town where they have say, one child with a disability and one child who is neurotypical. They can all go out together.”
Flint says his family’s Italian exchange student, Franchesca, might even try skiing this winter with them.
“I’m so glad my parents moved me here,” Flint says. “I’m autistic, and to be honest I’ve learned how to control it over the years thanks to all my teachers that taught me those things. Some people doubt disabilities…I’ve had a lot of people talk down to me. Adaptive helps people recognize that we are real people too. And we can have fun. It helped me be in the world and know that I have my own value.”
Flint says he feels like the entire community around him makes a difference, including the Crested Butte Community School, his friends, his coaches and his cross-country team who he is recruiting for the Bridges event this year.
Flint and his parents have participated in many Bridges events with team costumes, starting as “Hoyty Toyty,” when they dressed in formal wear, or Flint’s favorite, “Baby shark.” They also enjoy the challenges throughout the two-week event with favorites like the ABC challenge during COVID when he and his family found a street or trail for every letter of the alphabet to ride.
This year, Flint has masterminded team Titan Townie Takeover for his cross-country team and he has already raised $3,600 of his $5,500 goal.
Flint’s tips for kids who want to fundraise: “Text as many friends as you can, go to cool places and make videos [about your cause] and just do what you can. And start out low with your fundraising goal and then keep pushing it to get higher.”
He also has some tips for costumes. “I don’t recommend any super extreme nice clothing,” he says about his dad’s ‘Hoyty Toyty’ suit that got torn. “And I don’t recommend long dresses.”
Tutus, however, can be just the right thing.
For more information or to register for Bridges of the Butte Townie Tour, visit www.adaptivesports.org/events/bridges-butte-townie-tour.