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Tribal Health helps rescue Buttercup Run

by BERL TISKUS
Reporter | May 2, 2024 12:00 AM

A one-mile run, a 5k, and a 10k fun run gave runners options in the Jocko Valley Buttercup Run, held Saturday in Arlee. 

Audrey Claire Espinoza, 6, won the one-mile run.

“She's really booking it,” observed a couple of young women waiting for 5k friends. 

With a giant smile on her face, Audrey said she trained for the event by “running lots and lots at my gym.” 

The Buttercup Run might not have happened this year if not for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health Department.

“The Buttercup Run has been a beloved event in the Jocko Valley since 1986-87,” said Samantha Morigeau, who works as a physical therapist at Tribal Health. She grew up in the area and remembers the race going on her whole life.

But this March, an email circulated that the Buttercup Run faced cancellation due to a shortage of volunteers,       Morigeau said. She added that CSKT Tribal Health approached Friends of Arlee Schools, who had previously sponsored the Buttercup Run, and proposed a collaboration.

The short turnaround time resulted in a transition year, so no fees were charged, and the run was structured as fun runs/walks. Additionally, sponsors agreed that scholarships traditionally funded by FAS would be sustained through generous donations from the community. 

Tribal Health employees Lindsey O’Neill, Ellen Big Sam and Morigeau – all Arlee residents – headed up the coordination team, with substantial help from Chelsea Kleinmeyer, Joanna Hazen and Cammie Pablo-Dupuis.  

Sixteen volunteers helped out on race day, including members of the Arlee Volunteer Fire Department, the CSKT Tribal Health Kidney Keepers, Montana Senate District 46 candidate Jacinda Morigeau and her treasurer Brenna Davis, and members of the Friends of Arlee Schools.

In a nod to the event's heritage, this year's shirt design was crafted by local graphic designer Phylicia McDonald, incorporating elements from previous years' designs. A grant from the Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation helped pay for the shirts. 

According to Morigeau, 307 community members registered for the event, and 218 came out in the rain with their running shoes tied and ready to go. Participants ranged in age from 0 to 77, and 48% of participants were from the Arlee community. More than half said this was their first time participating in the event. 

“Tribal Health is honored to step in and preserve this beloved, long-standing community tradition,” said Morigeau, who expressed gratitude to everyone who contributed to the event’s success under its new stewardship. “We eagerly anticipate the continuation of the annual Jocko Valley Buttercup Run for many years to come.”

    The check-in tent at the Arlee Buttercup Run was bustling Saturday morning. Dr. Samantha Morigeau, in blue coat, and her cohorts at Tribal Health helped revive this year's run. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
 
 
    A little rain and grey skies didn't stope the runners in the Buttercup Run in Arlee. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)