Rally on the Rocks organizers recently donated 5,000 to the BEACON Afterschool Program and the Helen M. Knight Elementary Food for Kids Backpack Program. [Courtesy photo]

Each year around the middle of May, UTV and ATV enthusiasts from across the country flock to Moab to enjoy trail riding, camaraderie and the kind of scenery that only Moab has to offer. But in addition to offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience for attendees, the Rally on the Rocks organization has found ways to give back to the Moab community.

Last year, the group donated a Polaris RZR UTV to Grand County Search and Rescue. Polaris had donated the UTV to Rally on the Rocks.

“This year, (Polaris) donated another RZR, and we wanted to pick something that was local to Moab again,” rally organizer Lanse Chournos said.

The organizers decided to raffle off the RZR and donate the funds to a local program.

The donation, which ended up totaling $15,000, was split between the BEACON Afterschool Program, and the HMK Food for Kids Backpack Program that first-grade teacher Sarah Henderson started earlier this year. The program relies on donations in order to send food home with HMK students who might not otherwise have access to dinner at home.

“In my hometown of St. George, there’s a foundation called Tans’ Treats that puts together food packages for the kids after they go home and on weekends that we support when we do the rally here,” Chournos said. “After doing some searching, we found the BEACON activity and HMK food program in Moab. We realize the economic gap in Moab for some of the residents, and due to the fact that the programs are supported by the school district, it was an easy decision.”

Henderson said that there are currently more than 40 students who are served through HMK’s program. Once a student is identified as benefiting from the program, they receive a backpack full of food every Friday. They’re sent enough food to feed them dinner for the entire week.

“It costs about $100 per week to feed those kids,” she said. “This donation will also help to get the kids some fresh fruits, vegetables and bread.”

“I am overcome with emotion that complete strangers, many of whom do not even live in Moab, would step forward and support our local kids this way,” Henderson said. “Their donations will make a significant difference in ensuring all of our students have three meals a day.”

HMK Principal Taryn Kay agreed.

“I would like Rally on the Rocks to know how much we appreciate the donation and that it will make a real difference in the lives of our students,” she said. “We know that the students who are helped by this donation will be better able to learn and succeed at school and at home.”

In 2016, BEACON served more than 700 students, giving students a safe place to stay while their parents are at work.

“We are delighted that Rally on the Rocks chose to support the children and youth in Grand County,” BEACON Executive Director Edith Sage said. “This donation will help BEACON continue to serve more than half the kids in the K-8 age group, and we will definitely put this to good use with academic support and enrichment activities for our kids.”

Funding benefits BEACON, HMK