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A Southwest Airlines Employee Coasts for Kids

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It's July 29, 2010. Thrill seekers at the eleven amusement parks belonging to Cedar Fair, L.P. all across North America have united themselves in a noble quest: to use their love of roller coasters for, of all things, charity. The objective at each park? To ride one of the park's roller coasters for hours on end in an effort to raise funds for Give Kids the World, an organization that takes children with life-threatening illnesses and their families on a cost-free vacation to their village in Orlando and to the parks around it.

I attended the portion of the event, known as Coasting for Kids, at Dorney Park, in Allentown, Pennsylvania (because Dorney Park is where it's at!), joined by roughly twenty other daring riders.

Dorney selected Steel Force as the ride we'd challenge for the day, which made my selection of Dorney as the park I'd attend that much more exciting. Steel Force is a two hundred-foot tall, more-than-mile-long monstrosity of a roller coaster that runs the length of the park and is one of the highest-rated coasters in the world. We had the opportunity to ride it as much as we wanted (or in same cases, as much as we could) during two marathon sessions. The morning marathon session lasted a staggering 31 laps, which took nearly three hours to complete. Having endured the entire marathon start-to-finish, I was a little drained and a little sore from bouncing out of my seat during the airtime-filled extravaganza. However, the morning marathon was little more than a warm-up.

The afternoon marathon was even crazier, lasting a whopping 40 laps and taking well over three hours to finish. It had actually been extended past the original ending time to hit that milestone. How did I fare? I was able to go the distance during the afternoon as well, bringing my total count for the day to 71 laps, roughly six hours of riding, and a total distance traveled of over 75 drop-filled, airtime-packed miles. And again, this was for charity, not just for the love of the thrill. Regarding the totals, the event alone has raised over $30,000 so far for Give Kids the World, with donations still rolling in. As an aside, Dorney's attendees earned the distinction of being the most successful fundraisers on a per-person basis.

I can honestly say I was really moved by the entire event. For starters, it was really cool to see how many people with a love for roller coasters were willing to put their passion to use for such an incredible cause. Not only that, but they went the extra mile to make sure their fundraising efforts were successful, allowing Dorney to take the title for being the most successful on a per-person basis away from Cedar Point, the park with, by far, the highest event attendance. In addition, it was really cool to see the diversity within the group that participated. There were everyone from the hardcore coaster enthusiasts to the family of season pass-holders (including an intrepid five year-old), all united in their efforts to raise money for these sick kids and their families.

Right now, I'm still taking it all in, as it was a really, truly awesome event. Here's hoping for repeat performances in the future. For now, if I don't see you out on the rides, you can bet I'll see you in the skies.

(Photos one, three, and four courtesty Carrrie Myers)