MISSOULA — Several years ago, Zane Goicovich and his family needed help from the community when he underwent brain surgery. Now, the 8-and-a-half-year-old is returning the favor by raising more than $1,000 for Watson Children’s Shelter through Bike for Shelter.
At the age of 2, Goicovich had to be taken by air ambulance to a Spokane hospital after a medical emergency. When he was 4, he underwent brain surgery to remove a part of his brain connected to language and short-term memory capacity.
The surgery helped his health, but came with risks that Goicovich would experience developmental delays.
“It could have been very different – and even with the surgery, it could have been very different,” said Elaine Sheff, Goicovich’s mom.
“I feel so blessed every day to see him,” Sheff said.
Throughout the medical tests and procedures of those years, the Missoula community generously supported the family, she said.
“The Missoula community was so good to us. People made us dinner and mowed our lawn and just really were so, so kind,” Sheff said.
Her family has always wanted to find a way to give back. Fittingly, it was Goicovich who came up with the idea to raise money during the Bike for Shelter event, Sheff said.
Goicovich said he wants other children to feel better, too, and decided to raise money during the Ride for Shelter event as a way to celebrate his efforts to improve his own health.
“The kids need help,” said the second-grader, who learned how to ride a bike last fall.
He created a donation webpage and sent out email and Facebook requests. He also added his own weekly allowance to the pot.
On Saturday, he’ll celebrate his efforts during the event that serves as a fundraiser for Watson Children’s Shelter, which provides services to children ages infant to 14 who have nowhere else to go in a time of crisis.
Each year, more than 100 children stay with Watson’s, with the average length of stay being 60 days, said Fran Albrecht, the organization’s executive director.
“The need for our care and both of our shelters has remained constant and significant,” Albrecht said.
To meet those needs, the community has stepped up through fundraising efforts, including Saturday’s 14th annual Bike for Shelter event.
The event includes an 11-mile bike ride, which begins at 9:30 a.m., a 2-mile ride, beginning at 10 a.m., and a barbecue and games starting at 11 a.m., all in the Fort Missoula park area. Registration begins at 8 a.m.
A bike rodeo event also is part of the schedule at 9 a.m., and the barbecue has a carnival feel, with sack races, beanbag tosses, miniature horses, prizes and a bike giveaway.
Additionally, people can donate at least $5 to help the shelter provide birthday celebrations to children.
The goal is to raise $60,000, Albrecht said, adding the community has been generous in the past and that the event will have raised $750,000 over its existence.
Saturday’s event also celebrates the children who Watson’s helps, she said.
“Families are precious. Children are precious. It’s a celebration of the special gift of family and children and helping those in need who are from our community,” she said.
Recently, Goicovich got a chance to see the organization’s work up close during a tour of one of the shelters and said he was impressed by the games and comfortable furniture.
“It was pretty cool,” he said.
The home reminded him of the Ronald McDonald House in Denver, where he stays during his annual checkup, he added.
Saturday, Goicovich will have an opportunity to address the crowd and said he’ll probably say, “I’m glad to give you guys all the money.”
“It’s humbling and intense,” Sheff said about accepting help. “And it’s really fun to give something back.”
For more information on the event or Watson Children’s Shelter, go to bikeforshelter.com/information/ or watsonchildrensshelter.org.