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Along for the ride

The Santa Barbara News-Press featured the SB100 stating: "Santa Barbara 100 cycling event benefits charities supporting children and families" 

Check it out on their website (online subscription required).

Here's the story! 

The Santa Barbara 100, previously named the Santa Barbara Century, is a bicycling event that donates all profits from entry fees and sponsorships to charities supporting children and families, both local and abroad.

This year, it takes place Oct. 17, beginning and ending at Leadbetter Beach on Cabrillo Boulevard.

Riders from all over the United States will be participating in one of three courses - 100 miles, 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) and 34 miles - that run through Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria and Goleta.

Among the local cyclists will be Jason Middleton, 42, and his son, Aiden, 11. Working behind-the-scenes in the promotion, organization and logistics of the event is Jason's wife, Tricia Middleton, 42.

The couple are passionate about endurance sports - Mr. Middleton used to race professionally, and Mrs. Middleton managed the "Eco-Challenge" adventure race that aired on USA Networks.

This year, the Middletons, who have two other children, Camryn, 8, and Nolan, 3, are spearheading the growth of the SB100 from a small community gathering into an event that has a big impact on the community.

"The Santa Barbara 100 is a world-class cycling event, but it's also so much more than that - we're a nonprofit organization raising money for important charities like Cottage Children's Medical Center , our hometown hospital and one that has touched many of our lives," said Mrs. Middleton.

During an interview with her husband on the deck of their home in the Mission Canyon area, she revealed that they have a very personal reason for wanting to raise at least $100,000 at the October event.

Besides Cottage Children's Medical Center, other recipients will be the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Andrew Popp Memorial Scholarship Program and the Emory Foundation, which has been started by the Middletons to support parents and families grieving the loss of a baby by providing local resources and funding programs that assist the family before, during and after the loss.

"The foundation is named for our daughter, Emory, who died in 2009 when she was 21/2 months old, and we never knew exactly what the cause was," said Mrs. Middleton, fighting back tears as she recalled the nightmare. "There were no problems during the pregnancy, same as with Aiden, who was then 4, and Camryn, who was 1. But when Emory was born, we were told she had less than a 5 percent chance of survival. She spent her entire life at Cottage and Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. I spent 73 days in the hospitals next to her bed.

"When she died, I was devastated. It was the most difficult time of my life. None of the doctors seemed to know what the actual cause of death was, which made it especially hard," said Mrs. Middleton.

Although she had the support of her loving husband, she said she "felt so alone. I fell into a deep depression. Luckily, I found out about a Hospice of Santa Barbara support group for grieving parents. It was a lifeline for me. Thank God it was free," she said.

The financial relief was especially important because the year before, 2008, Mr. Middleton, a pilot, had started a new business, Silver Air, a private aviation management and charter company, not realizing that the country was about to have a major recession.

"Our entire world collapsed," Mr. Middleton said. "The next two years were absolutely the worst. My partner and I were based in a storage unit in Hangar 3 at the Santa Barbara Airport. We were flying one plane and running the business. But looking back, I'm glad I went through that because I learned how to operate a business very efficiently."

Today, the company has 15 planes that fly all over the country by 45 pilots. There is a support staff of 60 in the state-of-the-art headquarters in 5,000 square feet on upper State Street. The company is title sponsor of the Santa Barbara 100.

On another upbeat note, the Middletons are parents of 3-year-old Nolan, who was born "perfect and healthy."
A native of Santa Barbara, Mrs. Middleton grew up in Lompoc, graduated from Lompoc High School in 1991, earned a bachelor's degree in English literature and education at UCLA in 1995 and moved to Los Angeles, where she began working with Mark Burnett Productions for television.

"I did eight seasons of 'Survivor' as executive in charge of development, filming locations in Guatemala, Panama, Cook Islands, Fiji, China, Palau, Gabon and Brazil," she said. "I found locations, arranged logistics and negotiated with host countries. We were the first American reality show to film the entire series in China.

"Cook Islands was a huge production involving 400 people with supplies sent in 40 shipping containers. The site in Guatemala was so remote there were no accommodations, so we set up a city of 110 camping trailers. The producers are very eco-conscious. The locations are often better when the show leaves," said Mrs. Middleton.
While working as event producer for "Eco-Challenge," she met Mr. Middleton, one of the competitors. Bakersfield-born, he became a professional triathlete after graduating from Bakersfield High School in 1991.

"After two years, I realized I would never be more than a mediocre pro athlete, so I went back to Bakersfield to work in my family's bike shop until a friend suggested I compete in the 'Eco-Challenge.' It was a whole new style of racing, long and slow. I was good at that. It was a pivotal point in my athletic career," he said.

In 1999, the Middletons were married on a rainy day at the Music Academy of the West in Montecito. Soon after, Mr. Middleton started his own team to compete in the "Eco-Challenge," where the winner gets $500,000.

"Team Earthlink became very successful. In five years, we were on the cover of Outside magazine, TV Guide and featured on the CBS show '48 Hours.' It also gave me experience in running a business," said Mr. Middleton.
But he realized he couldn't keep up the athletic pace forever. To prepare for the future, he became a full-time pilot flying corporate jets.

"When I became tired of working for other people, I bought an airplane and with several investors started Silver Air," Mr. Middleton said.

Meanwhile, his wife continues to work from home doing much the same thing she did for "Survivor" and "Eco-Challenge."

"My niche is difficult locations for adventure and survival reality TV shows. Currently, I'm working on 'Alone' on the History Channel. Recently, I worked on 'Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls,' " said Mrs. Middleton, who juggles her professional life with volunteering as marketing and sponsorship director for Santa Barbara 100.

She has also started the Emory Foundation, envisioning that funding from the bicycle benefit will help initiate four programs:

- The Bereavement Project at Cottage Children's Medical Center to improve the support the hospital gives to families before, during and after the loss of a baby from "viability" (24 weeks) to under 1 year old.

- The Emory Foundation Fund for parents who cannot afford to pay for the costs of burial and cremation of their baby.

- The Living With Loss Group at Hospice of Santa Barbara to make families grieving the loss of a baby aware of the group and that it is free and so is free counseling for individuals.

- The Emory Foundation Scholarship for nurses specializing in pediatrics, neonatal or a specialty certification such as respiratory therapy.

"Donating time to make the Santa Barbara 100 a successful fundraiser for charities like the Emory Foundation is a way for Jason and me to give back to the community, and by using my experience as an event producer, I'm hoping to reach our goal of $100,000, which is more than has ever been raised before," said Mrs. Middleton.

email: mmcmahon@newspress.com

IF YOU GO
The Santa Barbara 100 will take place Oct. 17, starting and ending at Leadbetter Beach on Cabrillo Boulevard. For more information or to register, visit www.sb100.org.
For more information about the Emory Foundation, contact info@emory-foundation.org.

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