Keeping the community trotting

Emily Vance says UWL’s campus environment helped her stay physically fit in college. She played rugby, volunteered at a physical therapy clinic and used UWL’s fitness rooms and equipment (the Recreational Eagle Center was under construction when she graduated.)

Alumna and bike shop owner supports annual Turkey Trot, partners with university to promote fitness

Emily Vance, ‘97, recalls taking her first UW-La Crosse tour in the mid-1990s as a high school student. As the Minnesota native walked the campus, she saw a place not only to learn, but also to live.

“It was a warm and welcoming campus community,” she says. “Beyond school, I wanted to live here.”

Now, as owner of a local bike shop, River Trail Cycles, Vance is part of the reason UWL continues to be such a livable place. Not only does her shop serve students in need of bicycles and repairs, she is also a huge supporter of one of the university’s largest fitness events — the annual Turkey Trot, says Sue White, UWL director of Rec Sports. Vance has been a sponsor and participant in the run/walk for about a decade, including this year’s event Nov. 17.

Vance sets up a booth and serves as a sponsor, providing gift certificates and other prizes to winners. She also runs the race.

Vance says the relationship between the university and business community is a two-way street. “Having that incoming freshman class every year is a boost for our whole community,” she says.

UWL students and their parents provide a local economic impact, she says.

The annual Turkey Trot is also a community fundraiser that has contributed more than $60,000 to the following benefactors over the years: UWL multicultural scholarships, Eco Park, Big Brothers Big Sisters, UWL Physical Activity Mentoring Program, New Horizons Women’s Shelter, Hope Lives Foundation, Outdoor Recreation Alliance and Wisconsin Conservation Corps.

Vance, a psychology major with a minor in biology, used her liberal arts education, as well as experiences working in bike shops throughout high school and college to land a position after graduation as an outside sales representative with a bicycle parts and accessories supplier, Olympic Supply Co. After serving in this position for eight years, she gained perspective on the bicycle industry and interest in opening her own bike shop. She opened River Trail Cycles in Onalaska in March 2007.

“I felt confident that I could do it, and it is industry I’m passionate about,” she says.

That is another reason she supports the Turkey Trot. The popular community tradition promotes her passion of fitness.

“It is great to help promote healthy living in our community,” she says.