Thousands of riders In Buffalo Bicycle Classic will help CU-Boulder students with scholarships

In 1991, when Punam Chatterjee was 20 months old, a drunk driver careened into her parents' car. Her leg was shattered, as was her father's. Her mother lost an eye. Although she was too young to remember it, she has since learned that while her parents convalesced, nurses volunteered to comfort her and read to her.

"I don't know any of those people … but what they did for me was just incredible," Chatterjee recalled.

She still has multiple screws in her leg, and while she said she's "never going to try out for the Army," she is active. And she is ambitious: "I want to be a doctor and help children who went through what I did."

Throughout her education at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Elevations Credit Union Buffalo Bicycle Classic has helped Chatterjee pursue her dream. She graduated in May with degrees in psychology and neuroscience plus molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

Chatterjee is one of the hundreds of recipients of $1.4 million in scholarship money raised by CU's Buffalo Bicycle Classic since its founding in 2003.

The event is the brainchild of Todd Gleeson, dean of CU's College of Arts and Sciences, and Woody Eaton, a 1962 alumnus, businessman, investor and philanthropist. The pair hatched the idea of a fundraising ride for scholarships while cycling together in support of The Children's Hospital.

Gleeson and Eaton enlisted the help of Frank Banta and Gail Mock of Boulder. Banta, of Banta Construction, is a 1972 alumnus, and Mock, of Mock Realty, is a longtime university supporter. The event is organized and overseen by volunteers.

The event has generated 548 scholarships for good students who need financial support. Students cannot apply for the scholarship and don't even know they're in the running until they learn they have won. It is the single largest source of scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences, which is the largest of the university's colleges and schools.

The event was canceled last year because of the Fourmile Canyon Fire, but because most riders and sponsors did not request a refund, scholarships remained funded.

Scholarship recipients call it a significant windfall.

Leslie Fowler, a current scholarship recipient majoring in classics, put it this way: "I am so grateful to have been selected as a BBC scholar because it makes me feel more confident about paying my student loans after graduation. It makes me feel that much closer to having my dream job as a high school teacher."

Cyclists of all ages and abilities are gearing up for this year's Elevations Credit Union Buffalo Bicycle Classic on Sept. 11 in Boulder. Ambitious cyclists can ride the 100-mile, 70-mile, 50-mile or 35-mile rides. More casual riders, including families and recreational riders, are encouraged to ride the 14-mile Little Buffalo, which will include snow cones and complimentary face paintings.

Riders are encouraged to register early, as the ride will be capped at 2,500 cyclists, a number the ride has attracted in recent years.

All cyclists participating in this fully supported, fundraising ride will generate scholarship funds. Online registration of $95 for the longer rides includes a scholarship donation of $45. Registration for the Little Buffalo is $65 for participants 14 and older and $35 for riders from 8 to 13.

Those who "Ride the Buffalo" will start and finish on the CU-Boulder campus at Benson Field, located across Colorado Avenue from Folsom Field. The longer courses traverse through Boulder and Larimer counties. The 14-mile Little Buff is a fun cruiser ride around Boulder to the town of Marshall; it is perfect for those who want to participate but don't want to face long courses and busy roads.

Registration for all rides includes a Ride the Buffalo T-shirt, water bottle, aid-station treats, breakfast and lunch. Jerseys, socks and other merchandise are available separately. An expo featuring sponsors will be held at the start/finish, and riders can win raffle prizes and enjoy after-race food, beverages and entertainment.

Riders can register online at www.buffalobicycleclassic.com. Walk-up registration is available the day of the ride and includes a $10 late fee. For information call 303-735-1569 or email bbc@colorado.edu.

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