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MEEKER | “From something this tragic, we need to come up with something good to do,” Mike Sizemore told his wife Kathy the night they learned their son James, 19, had been killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling near Sand Peak east of Meeker.
“Were were sitting in the dark talking,” Kathy wrote. “And so it started.”
Since that cold, dark night in 2011, much good has been accomplished, thanks to the Sizemore’s dedication and perseverance.
In 2012 they established an annual snowmobile poker run, making avalanche awareness the main focus of the event while raising funds for search and rescue equipment, putting up avalanche warning signs and creating a scholarship fund for Meeker High School graduates.
“The first poker run was in 2012, on President’s Day weekend, the same weekend James died,” Kathy said via email. “We used James’s old school bus, which he and his friends had used to go dirt biking, as the staging area. We sold poker hands and had stops along a route. The route followed a path that James had ridden many times with friends and family, a route easily taken by any rider, experienced or new. Mike wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the day.”
Friends and family came from near and far for the “I Ride With James” event, many helping by donating food, riding in the poker run, and sharing memories, which became part of the family’s healing process.
Kids who came got a prize: a hat, helmet, T-shirt, toy, sticker, something. “Mike wanted everyone to have the best time ever,” Kathy wrote. For the last five years the grand prize for the best poker hand was a kids’ snowmobile.
Since that first event, the Sizemores have presented $13,000 in scholarships to Meeker High School graduates planning to attend a trade school.
“We feel that most times these students are left out of the equation. We do not require an application. James’s sisters, Abigail and Sarah, said James would not have ever filled out an application so the decision was made. The high school allows us to know the names of students applying to trade-type colleges and we then choose from that.”
The Sizemores have also purchased backpacks with probes and shovels for search and rescue members, “Iggy” bags—thermal body bags used to transport injured parties from wilderness areas, first aid bags for four-wheelers or snowmobiles depending on the season, as well as other items for search and rescue teams.
This year the family has decided to discontinue the poker run due to a lack of snow and waning interest in the event. They will continue the scholarship fund, regardless.
“We have talked about doing another poker run on the 10th anniversary,” Kathy said. “We will miss seeing all the friends and family who have come to help and be with us.”
Donations to the scholarship fund can be made through Bank of the San Juans, and donations to the search and rescue team can be made through the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office in James’s name.