Birkie events driven by thousands of volunteers - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Birkie events driven by thousands of volunteers

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The American Birkebeiner takes an abundance of planning, organization, and manpower to put on. Since the event began, it's been driven by volunteers.

More than 2,000 volunteers are working behind the scenes to make the American Birkebeiner happen year after year. 

"Without all the volunteers, there wouldn't be a Birkie," says long-time volunteer Don Semler. 

The event draws people in from places around the world along with dedicated volunteers, who work to ensure one of the nations greatest ski races is a success. 

18-year volunteer, Brad Bates who recently switched to security this year says, "we just go around and check things, make sure with what's happened in the past with bombings and stuff like that, we're here to help watch after."

Some even past participants of the race including Kristen Rodeheaver who says, "I've signed up thinking I was going to ski race the Birkie. It would be my 18th Birkie but decided to volunteer instead and be a forerunner."

Forerunning is a job that's crucial to the safety of skiers. 

Brint Schwerbel, who has participated in the Birkebeiner race for 4 years and a first-time volunteer says, "we just ski the course before the competitors go, we make sure that the track is clear of any kind of debris."

Volunteers here at Birkebeiner help with everything from security to trail grooming, to even helping build the famous Birkie bridge.

"Skiers are always thanking the volunteers. You know they say, thank you for coming out and doing this and helping us and working with the Birkie. I always tell the skiers, thanks for sking because without you I wouldn't be out here," says Semler. 

Volunteers express passion for not only the event but for the love of the sport. 

Schwerbel says, "I was lucky to be able to help out the Birkebeiner, which is the organization that I love, and also ski in the morning before anyone else."

But above all, they say it's about having a good time. 

"If we didn't have fun and didn't get to interact with the skiers, it wouldn't be probably worth volunteering for," Semler says. 

The American Birkebeiner race kicks off Saturday morning at 8:15.

For information on how to volunteer click here.

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