Area families enjoyed first-ever Rhino Challenge event

By Cindy M. Cranmer


Organizers are considering The Rhino Challenge an “extreme success” as families got outside having fun and being challenged by the obstacles of the 5K course and raising more than $1,100 for charities in the process.

Rhino-startMore than 425 people enjoyed a sunny day at the obstacle course recently, according to Mark Decker, founder of The Rhino Challenge. Participants ran, walked, jumped, climbed and slid their way to fun.

“We couldn’t be more excited about it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Decker said. “At the end of the day, everyone had a great time. The weather turned out perfect for us.”

The course was set up so three varying levels of fitness challenges were next to each other so families could participate together. The purpose of the event at Grattan Raceway on July 20 was to provide a safe, yet challenging, event that would promote healthy families, strong communities and effective teamwork so as to build courage and confidence in participants.

Some favorite obstacles of participants included the slip-and-slide, the mud pit, the lake walk and, as one participant explained, “the uniqueness of other obstacles” such as the log roller. Individuals would use upper arm strength to pull themselves across a series of moving logs while the log they started on rolled with them to help in the process.

While the mud- and water-based obstacles were the most popular, Decker said, many considered the rope wall, Rhino-Ivorthe rock wall and the other climbing walls as obstacles they enjoyed as the most challenging. “The slip-and-slide was more of a reward than an obstacle. Everyone had the most fun on it and it cooled everyone off after the hike 150 feet up the hill.”

Due to the construction and start-up costs of creating such a challenge, The Rhino Challenge did not make a profit. However, they committed to giving money to their causes of Life International and Wedgewood Christian Services. More than $1,100 will be donated after the money from the Groupon sales comes in. “We’re happy with what we could do this year, but we want to do far more in the future,” Decker said.

“We chose these organizations because they are family-oriented organizations and follow the things we are supporting in our mission such as family, community, health and life,” said Maggie Decker, Mark’s wife.

Wedgewood’s donation will support the Manasseh Project, which is an outreach program Wedgewood runs that is dedicated to ending human trafficking in West Michigan.

“We had a lot of expenses the first year. We hope next year to break even and to grow from there. We plan to be around for awhile,” Mark Decker said. The date for The Rhino Challenge for 2014 will be announced in September after final details are worked out.

Mark Decker said the 2013 participants will be able to get the largest discount if they sign up early. There also will be early bird pricing for others.

Running the event with 15-plus obstacles would not have been possible without about 65 “awesome volunteers,” Mark Decker said. Sponsors also helped make the event happen by helping cover obstacle costs, donating refreshments, products and other help.

For more information on The Rhino Challenge, visit the website at or under The Rhino Challenge on Facebook.

Personally, this writer completed the challenge with my three children, two eight-year-old boys and a six-year-old girl. The event was considered a fun, challenge by everyone.

There also were several friends who completed the Tough Mudder that did this as a family event and enjoyed themselves. This is definitely an event that this writer recommends saving the date for next summer to attend.

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