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By John Dowd 

Project ASCENT gets competitors outdoors


John Dowd

TOP TOSSERS - Kevin and Beth Cunningham start off with some practice throws at the Project ASCENT cornhole festival on Saturday.

Local youth outdoor camp organization Project ASCENT held its annual Cornhole Festival fundraiser over the weekend. The nonprofit's event included food, drinks, merchandise, live music and a cornhole tournament that brought in people from all over the area. Participants from Spokane to Kalispell, and all over Sanders County partook.

The round robin tournament on Saturday included 20 teams with 40 players, and each participant was guaranteed six games. At the end of the day there was an elimination match, which saw a team from Spokane win first place. The team "Happy Days," composed of players Beth and Kevin Cunningham, took home the title. They won $100 and donated it back to the nonprofit. Kevin also sank the Airmail raffle, which was a pot participants paid into. If drawn, they were given a chance to throw a bag to win it. Kevin sank two bags from over 27 feet to win $103, which he also donated back to Project ASCENT.

Beth said Project ASCENT "does an amazing job." "This is a great place to come and play, and for a good cause," Kevin added. Both the Cunninghams participate heavily in the game of cornhole. In fact, Kevin is one of the directors in Washington for the American Cornhole League. Beth said their saying is that "anyone can play, and anyone can win." They also run the Spokane Cornhole League in the fall.

The event was hosted at the residence of Dave Mahler and Noreena Edgecombe. "Next year I'll compete," Mahler said. Edgecombe said that they would love to have Project ASCENT back to host the event again. "The people are amazing. The heart and soul that goes into what they do is something we want to be a part of," Mahler added.

The event raised more than $13,000, which will fund a full camp and part of another. "It was local sponsors and players that were the huge funding source, and we'd like to give them a huge thanks!" said Rob Christensen, founder and executive director of Project ASCENT.

"We couldn't have our camps or fundraisers without the generosity of this community," said Andrea Christensen, secretary for the nonprofit. "We try really hard to throw good events and offer something different. Everything that people do at our events, from the donations and the food purchases to the fun, benefits these kids to experience the same thing - getting them outdoors!"

Local artist Tanner Laws played several of his originals during the event, and many local organizations and businesses sponsored individual holes in the tournament. Laws' first single, "Save Me," is available on Spotify.

The Cornhole Festival took six months to plan and had the help of over 20 volunteers. It cost Project ASCENT $3,300 to host the festival. "We're so detail oriented, as a group, and we like to think of all the things that could make the event go better, or that could go wrong," Andrea Christensen said.

Project ASCENT is run by eight board members and a group of volunteers. They host five week-long adventure camps during the summer, during which they provide all the gear and equipment to participants. Each camp welcomes 10 kids, and throughout the year the group hosts fundraisers and events. More information on the organization, as well as Project ASCENT merchandise, if available online at


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