Monday, January 12, 2009

Jumping to help

By Barry Matulaitis,Special to the Sun Journal

RUMFORD - Spectacular aerial stunts, precise tricks and crowd-pleasing antics are but a few of the many attractions of any Maximum Velocity stunt show.

Three daring BMX riders, one intrepid inline skater and one nifty skateboarder combined to put on a memorable show for about 200 people at Mountain Valley High School on Saturday.

The event had a significant local flavor, as proceeds went toward a double lung transplant for Stephanie Tutlis Briggs, a 1994 Mountain Valley graduate who now lives in Limerick and has been battling cystic fibrosis since she was diagnosed at age 12.

Briggs will need about $300,000, in addition to medical insurance, to pay costs associated with the transplant.

Her brother-in-law, Geoff Carlton, coordinated the show and spoke of the passion the bikers, inline skaters and skateboarders have for their sport despite the risks involved.

"They all do this, anyways," Carlton said. "They ride at skate parks. They ride on the street. They do this because they love it."

Maximum Velocity performers take their show all over the United States and beyond, traveling to venues in Canada, Boston and New York, among other places. They recently completed their 10th year of performances at Boston's First Night celebration on New Year's Eve.

Ramps were brought in by Maximum Velocity and set up at both ends of the gym, with one platform in the center and another apparatus resembling a low metal balance beam off to one side. The ramps were constructed of durable aluminum topped with wood, with the ones at the end of the gym allowing riders to climb the walls, and the center ramp giving them the momentum to soar nearly to the ceiling.

Bret Labelle, an inline skater from Biddeford, was eager to perform in front of the crowd."I enjoy inline skating," he said. "I've been doing it close to 15 years now."

Labelle trains at Rye Air Field in southern New Hampshire "at least a couple of times a week just to keep sharp," he said.

"It's a great feeling to be able to help someone out that really needs it," he said of the opportunity to help Briggs.

When asked about the event, Briggs said, "The stunts they make are amazing. I'm hoping everyone who comes enjoys it as much as I do.

"When the show got under way, the bikers did a series of progressively higher leaps over the ramps and mixed in some acrobatics as they let go of the handlebars in mid-air or came off the seat.

Labelle did a series of 360-degree spins and "fakies" (riding backward) on his skates and proved to be equally adept at going forward or backward off the ramps. Skateboarding enthusiasts also got to see some interesting footwork and agile handstands on the skateboard.

Occasionally, a trick wouldn't quite come off as planned, allowing for some good-natured kidding among the showmen.

A highlight of the show involved the performers interacting with the audience. Carlton, who was emcee for the evening, brought four people onto the center platform and arranged them in order of height. Behind them, the bikers and Labelle did jumps parallel to the group to see who could jump the highest.

Carlton asked the crowd to cheer based on who caught the most air, and the audience obliged with gusto. According to Carlton, the show has been met with an eagerly attentive audience wherever it goes.

"They love it," he said of the crowds. "Everyone can ride a bike. You get to see the kinds of stunts these guys can do.

"Briggs said she was touched by the show of support for her."To me, it's overwhelming to have so many people come together for such a cause," she said. "It means the world to me."

1 comment:

BreathinSteven said...

I can tell you're very special, Steph... It never fails to amaze me how friends and family will gather to rally around a CF kid... (Even though you're not a "kid" anymore...)(Yet some of us CF "kids" never really grow up...)

Tell your brother-in-law I'm so very proud of him... And I can't wait until I see your posts about your beautiful, new lungs... I hope your journey is as wonderful as mine...



Steve Ferkau
Chicago, IL