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Community, in the very sense of the word, represents connection and support. In the small towns where Pursuit team members live and work, community means everything.

This is especially so for Kayla Hartley, President of the Columbia Falls Lions Club and also Wedding & Event Sales Manager for Pursuit’s Glacier Park Collection. When a local boy fell ill with rare disease, Kayla and her colleagues jumped into action to let Maverick and his family know just how strongly their community was rooting for them.

Grounded in the Community

Having operated in northwest Montana for over 50 years, the Glacier Park team’s connection to the community runs deep. Whether they grew up here or made a short-term move that was destined to be a lifelong one, the team is made up of people who care deeply about these people and places.

For several years, half a dozen Pursuit staff have been active members of the local Lions Club chapter. They’ve volunteered their time to support everything from hanging the town’s Christmas lights to assisting with vision screening at local schools.

Kayla’s contribution and commitment to the Columbia Falls Lions Club led her to be selected as the chapter’s President—only the second female leader in their history. It’s an accomplishment that she considers a privilege. “It’s actually an honor,” she says. “A generation of mostly men who grew up in a club that didn’t even allow women have accepted me and voted me in as their president.”

A woman sets up a sign.

Photo: Pursuit team member and Lions Club volunteer Angelina Luke sets up for the event.

Just one month into her presidency, Kayla never expected that her first task would be to make a difference in the lives of a family who needs and deserves all the support they can get.

A Unique Pandemic Fundraiser

Through mutual friends, Kayla heard about the Bench family and their fight against a rare and powerful illness. Nine-year-old Maverick Bench was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia in May of this year, and since then the family’s world has been turned upside down. Kayla knew the community would rally behind Maverick and his family, and she didn’t waste a moment mobilizing them for action.

"As a community, we always come together for something like this,” Kayla says. “It's a little bit different with COVID, but if you have the opportunity to help...you do it. And that's what we're doing.”

The team organized a pandemic-safe event that combined two things Kayla knows Columbia Falls loves—running and local craft beer. They partnered with four local breweries—Bias Brewery, Sacred Waters, Sunrift and Backslope Brewing—as well as Root Masonry and the Glacier Bank of Columbia Falls. These partners donated all that was needed to sell entries in a virtual 5K race that came with brewery vouchers and a custom-made “Maverick’s Army” medal.

Medals are presented to a group of children.

Photo: Lions Club President Kayla Hartley hands out medals to Maverick's four brothers.

Running for a Cause

“We started with 200 spots—thinking it was a long shot—and those sold out in 11 days,” Kayla says. So they ordered 50 more medals and re-opened the registration, and three days later those were gone too. The team didn’t think they would be able to sell more, but they knew they had to try. Then a private donor stepped up to cover 100 more medals and they put the word out to the community.

They encouraged runners to hit the trails and set up several medal pick-up events that allowed them to thank all the participants in a safe way. All told, Kayla and her team raised nearly $16,000 for the Bench family. She says that while it feels rewarding to spearhead such a supportive effort, what Maverick and his family need is something money can’t buy. “It makes your perspective on being present with your own family pretty real,” she reflects.

Of course, the team made sure to save one medal for the bravest of them all. It was delivered directly to Maverick in his hospital room. He posted a video message for his many supporters at home. “Thank you for doing the race for me,” he said with a brave smile. “I'm going to keep fighting down here. Love you all."

We are building a team of passionate people determined to make a difference in the places we love. Every effort counts. Meet more of them here and discover how Promise to Place is the real deal.
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