Echo QuestNew and improved, the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) is kicking off its Fourth Annual Eco Quest, offering four challenges for residents to choose from this coming spring.
Scheduled for Saturday, March 28, from 8 a.m.-12 Noon at the Alafia State River Park, located at 14326 S. C.R. 39 in Lithia, the Eco Quest has something for everyone. Residents can sign up for one of four events: the Eco Quest, the Eco Mini Quest, the new Ultimate Challenger or the new Nature Walk.
According to Executive Director Stacey Efaw, Eco Quest was created in 2006 because, “ECHO was looking for a way to come up with a fun, different type of fundraiser that would reach out and touch different groups.”
For those in peak condition, the Ultimate Challenge may be the way to go as one must have endurance and stamina to trek this 17-mile challenge consisting of a four-mile run, 10-mile complex bike, three-mile canoe and an obstacle course. The YMCA actually created the obstacle course which will be incorporated throughout all four races.
Those who are in fit condition but want to have a relatively laid back exercise regime for Saturday morning may want to check out the original, 13-mile Eco Quest maintaining a four-mile run, six-mile bike, a three-mile canoe and an obstacle course.
Both events require participants, taking part solo or in a team of two, to fundraise a minimum of $65 or more to cover the entrance fee.
Those with children in tow can enjoy the family-friendly Eco Mini Quest, a two-mile event comprising of a one-mile run, a one-mile bike and an obstacle course, or the Nature Walk, a low-intensity event encompassing a two-mile walk or run – your choice.
Encouraging each entrant to raise at least $30 for the entrance fee, the Eco Mini Quest’s top three winners will be awarded prizes, along with the top three winners of the Ultimate Challenge and the Eco Quest. All contestants will be given a commemorative T-shirt, a goodie bag, an event poster and free breakfast and lunch.
Having raised almost $30,000 over the last three years, this year’s Eco Quest is expected to bring in a colossal $15,000 with over 250 anticipated to attend, almost doubling 2008’s 150 participant count.
This year, the top three entrants to raise the most funds will be recognized through the sporting of yellow jerseys. Also new in 2009, the Grand Prize Fundraiser will be held as a raffle for those who obtained massive donations, with every $500 calibrating to one raffle ticket for the possibility of winning a $2,000 custom mountain bike frame from Quijano Bicycle Company. All are invited to the event’s festivities immediately following the race, with music, food and activities planned.
“It is a fun day; there are four different ‘adventures’ to choose from, so there is something for everyone,” says Efaw, who mentions, “ECHO will really need their help this year. This is a great way to spend time outside with family and friends and help the needy in our area.”
Helped by approximately 90 volunteers weekly, ECHO has been a place of refuge for those in need since 1987, having helped over 100,000 residents in need. Located at 507 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon, the facility welcomes volunteers and donations, such as jelly, spaghetti sauce and canned meat, through the hours of 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monetary donations are also welcome, going towards the purchase of perishable food items by ECHO at a discounted rate. Those who would like to help can mail donations to ECHO or donate online at
To register for the Eco Quest, with a deadline of Friday, March 20, visit For more information, email or call 685-0935. For more information about Alafia State River Park, call 672-5320.

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Carisa is a Senior News Reporter and Assistant Editor at the Osprey Observer. When she's not at work, she continues to write, working on future projects; hangs out with friends and family, her best friend (aka her husband) and her four dogs.