You can't toss a rock in Central Oregon without landing on a business severely impacted by COVID over the past 18 months. One who knows this story quite well is Chad Sperry, CEO of Breakaway Promotions, a family-run business based in Redmond.
In a typical year, Sperry organizes loads of running and cycling events, including the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon, the Ochoco Gravel Grinder and the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder. Plus, he supports a host of other sporting events such as the Cascades Lake Relay and the Deschutes Dash. But last year most events were canceled, and the rebound hasn't been much easier.
- Linda English
- Kaleb Sperry, Chad Sperry and Lori Waters from Breakaway Promotions.
"Our first event back was a running race, the Willamette Valley Marathon," Sperry said. "First, we had to reroute due to needing to avoid a homeless camp. And then we had to reroute around nesting bald eagles. And that was all after needing to reduce the numbers of participants because of COVID restrictions."
Sperry continued, "With the Ochoco Gravel Grinder, we had fires popping up around the region, road closures, extreme heat and our shower truck was rerouted to support firefighters. The limit was when a herd of cows, including two bulls, decided to make aid station two their hangout area. I just kept thinking, 'what's next?'"
Sperry's business is a family affair and wouldn't be possible without his wife and partner Lori Waters and his two sons Luke and Kaleb. Chad and Lori founded the business in 2002.
Breakaway Promotions is well known for its focus on giving back to the community. Each event offers up a Volunteer Grant Program that allows a variety of organizations to come help in return for a donation from the event. For example, instead of the Ridgeview High School Wrestling Team selling raffle tickets, the team can work at an event and raise money.
- Linda English
- A pack of cyclists at the start of the Ochoco Gravel Grinder.
"If we cancel an event, we have to cancel that program as well," Sperry commented. "It's hard to think of the impact of not being able to fund so many programs that benefit sports teams. We also love working with kids—they get a glimpse of how an event actually works, of all the details that go into making it a great experience, from the aid stations to accurate timing to clear signage. Even helping out with picking up the trash after. We also love that the kids get to work together, building a stronger connection with each other, creating a stronger team."
Sperry is optimistic about next year. "I know COVID has really increased the number of people doing sports outside, so I hope people will continue participating in the events. I am really looking forward to next year's lineup of events. It's fun to see people participate, to challenge themselves. Especially events like the Ochoco Gravel Grinder where people can camp and participate in a two-day event. I know we will have our challenges next year, too—all big events are based on your ability to pivot. I just hope we have a quieter year—maybe one where the biggest issue is chasing a few cows off the route."