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Beyond the Mission Statement: NEPA Racing

In our effort to create NEPA’s most comprehensive nonprofit directory, we came across hundreds of amazing organizations. Naturally, we wanted to share their inspiring stories.

In this series, we aim to highlight the hard-working organizations, the good people, the selfless volunteers, the helpers, the healers, the listeners, the comforters and all the great work they do. We hope that, through these stories, you too will be inspired to lend your time, your hands and your hearts. Follow along as we take a look beyond the mission statement.

Racing For A Good Reason

In less than two years, NEPA Racing has donated more than $100,000 to local, community-based charities. And they’re just getting started. What began as a relatively simple New Year’s Eve community race event has expeditiously turned into a full-fledged charitable organization both timing and hosting races, all for a noble cause and the very essence of their mission.


Triathletes Turned Race Directors


Dave Bass, left, with Steve Taren. Photo Credit: Matt Giambra

For Dave Bass and Steve Taren, racing is in their blood.

The pair have been lifelong runners and triathletes. But in this season of life, Steve’s hung up his sneakers while Dave jokingly says he’s “barely” in the game. But they’ve kept themselves involved in the sport they are incredibly passionate about by organizing, volunteering and fundraising for a number of area races over the last decade, at least. Steve created the former Wilkes-Barre Duathlon, which operated for over a decade before Covid put a halt to it, both volunteer for the Wyoming Valley Veterans Day Parade 5K, and Dave, a certified race director with USA Triathlon, is on the board of the Wyoming Valley Striders racing club.

But Dave had an idea for a new race. As a resident of the Back Mountain, he regularly gets his miles in on the Back Mountain Trail, a 5-mile rail-trail route that runs from Luzerne to Dallas. The goal was for the proceeds of the race to benefit the trails development. In order to pull it off, he turned to Steve for assistance.


A Memorable New Year’s Eve Celebration


Back Mountain Triathlon athletes. Photo Credit: Knot Just Any Day

It was Thanksgiving 2021 and the goal was a New Year’s Eve 5K.

As it turns out, holidays are exceptional days to host racing events. Dave knew this and wanted to capitalize on it. So, with only six weeks before their inaugural run, they relied on their extensive racing experience to pull off a successful first race. But there was one caveat. Dave intended to donate all the proceeds to the Back Mountain Trail. Steve had bigger plans.

Steve agreed to help on one condition: They make it a fundraiser for many nonprofits locally. With the incentive of a free hoodie for registering early, donated by Steve’s business, Wet Paint Printing + Design, 345+ racers came out for a new kind of New Year’s Eve party. With a DJ and a festive family atmosphere, a calling-card of the nonprofit, they were able to donate money to six local charities, including the Back Mountain Trail.

By year two, the 2022 Back Mountain 5K had grown to be one of the biggest races in the area with 550+ participants. And as the number of runners grew, and the race route expanded into downtown Luzerne, so did the donations. Their second race payout was $25,000.

“It makes us happy to be part of the community that we’re interested in, which is racing and multi-sport community,” says Steve. “We’re not the United Way and we’re not even the Luzerne Foundation, but we’re mimicking them by collecting our own money for charity.”

“When we get to one thousand participants, and it’s the biggest 5K in the area, it will be exciting,” adds Dave.


Nailing Down the Timing


Brian Orbin, The Clown Kid, holding a sponsorship sign during the Triathlon. Photo credit: Knot Just Any Day.

That first race was a learning curve.

The guys didn’t own or pay for official race timing equipment, so they used a cell phone to clock runners. As they learned (but surely already knew from personal experience) racers are very particular about their official timing results. So, they invested in the necessary equipment…and NEPA Racing was born. The mission being, to offer timing and racing services and raise funds for local nonprofits while also fostering a healthier community.

Since then, they’ve timed over a dozen races – both those they’ve organized as well as for others. The only catch: all the events must be nonprofits. And because they charge only a fraction of what for-profit timing services do, it allows them to cut costs and pass along the savings to benefit charity.

In addition to timing services, which are run by Scott Paul, co-owner and manager at Wet Paint Printing + Design, the group can also help create race registration websites, choosing a date and location, branding, logo design and developing race routes, as well as other services.

But the greatest thrill is hosting their own events, says Dave. “For us, those are the most rewarding because we’re involved in every aspect of the event,” from branding and promotion to choosing who gets the money. “And we get to hand them the check,” interjects Steve, “And they’re grateful. And it feels good. So that’s why we do that. That’s why I do it. That’s why Dave does it.”


Return of the Back Mountain Triathlon & Plans Ahead


Swimmers take on Harveys Lake during the 2023 Back Mountain Triathlon. Photo credit: Knot Just Any Day.

After a seven-year hiatus, the new Back Mountain Triathlon returned to Luzerne County thanks to the dynamic duo.

It was no small feat either. Dave had his work cut out for him and Steve is quick to offer his praise. “He did it. Painstakingly soliciting council people. Getting the permission from the borough. Going to the state. Getting the roads. And organizing the hundred little facets to make a triathlon work. 5Ks are phew. We can do ‘em in our sleep. The swimming with the transition. The bike racks. There’s so much. Dave and his volunteers, his army of volunteers, he willed it.”

Thanks to its successful return, and the fact that the group takes no salary other than paying Paul to operate the timing equipment on race day, as well as insurance, permits, signage and t-shirts, they’ll be cutting a $20,000 check benefiting a number of organizations including local high school cross country and swim teams; fire, ambulance, rescue and EMS providers; food banks and rotary clubs.

“It was amazing,” says Dave wistfully, “I get emotional just thinking about what a great day it was.” Adds Steve, “It turned out so much better than we ever dreamed of.”

Despite vowing to take a break over the fall season, NEPA Racing is blazing ahead, timing the Dallas Rotary Reservoir Run 5K/1M Walk on Saturday, October 14 and Marywood University Respiratory Therapy’s “Run For Your Lungs 5K” happening on Sunday, October 22.

On Thanksgiving Day, they’ll host the Ben August Memorial Thanks For Giving Day 5K to benefit local food banks including Sara’s Table, CEO/Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank and Food Dignity.


Community Support


A racer nears the finish line at the first Back Mountain Triathlon. Photo credit: Knot Just Any Day.

A great community needs exceptional events and strong nonprofits.

And to continue to offer them, NEPA Racing needs your support. “There’s a need in the community that I recognize,” says Dave. “It has to be somebody. Somebody’s got to bring these events or we won’t have them. And we’re the ones right now.”

Interjects Steve, “The whole essence of who we are is how much we give. Creating these community events, with these people, raising money for my people, that’s the joy.”

So how can you help? If you’re a business owner that would like to write a check to a local nonprofit, knowing that every cent goes back into the community, that’s a start. Sponsorship is their biggest funding driver. “In my experience, sponsors thank me,” says Steve. “The people who have a little extra, they say, Steve, thanks for getting me involved.”

They also need volunteers who can spend a few hours donating their time at events. Or, come out with your friends and family to cheer on race participants.

“Here’s the thing, we give all the money away,” Steve emphasizes. “We don’t keep a bunch for next year. We want to be hungry for each race, so we start from scratch. We’re all in. We’re all about making the money for the charities. “

“And we love writing those big checks, too,” Dave punctuates.

Featured image (top) courtesy of Knot Just Any Day.

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