BY AMANDA HAMON
The Ann Arbor News
As Scott Mahler, of Ypsilanti, ascended the winners podium on South University Avenue on Sunday, his four children rushed to congratulate him.
Minutes earlier, Mahler had won an Ann Arbor Tour de Kids race - on his seven-year-old son's tricycle.
"I wanted them to come out and participate, and they thought it was only fair I participate, too. This is good family fun,'' said Mahler, laughing.
Mahler beat about nine other fathers - riding tricycles and unicycles - in the Dads' Dash, a Father's Day-themed race in the Tour de Kids.
The daylong Tour de Kids, staged on streets around the University of Michigan Diag, raised money for the Greenview Hepatitis C Fund for research at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
Organizers said about 330 kids ages 3 through 12 participated in races, with each participant receiving a medal. Races were categorized by age and gender.
The Tour de Kids returned this year with the help of sponsors after a four-year hiatus, said co-director Rob Pulcipher. This year's title sponsor is SpamStopsHere, an Ann Arbor-based company that sells e-mail filtering software.
"We're quite thrilled with how it turned out. Everyone seems to be very happy with it,'' he said.
Debbie Green, director of the Greenview Hepatitis C Fund, said it may take a while before the revitalized Tour de Kids event raises as much as in previous years, when there were more participants and money went to other charities.
"Ann Arbor needs to get used to the event again. ... I don't think it'll take long,'' she said. "I think we'll probably double, maybe triple participation next year.''
Mahler said he and his family were glad the event returned.
"It's actually my birthday today, and ... it's our Father's Day tradition to do this,'' he said. "We were so glad when we found out it was coming back.''
Parents and children who participated said the event was a great way to exercise and spend time together.
When she heard the signal, three-year-old Caroline Dergis sped off with eight other girls on tiny bicycles. The girls' parents ran beside them as they neared the finish line, cheering the whole way.
Caroline's father, Mike Dergis, said he was glad to bring his family to an outdoor event where they could exercise.
Eve Wrest, of Grand Rapids, who was in town visiting family, came to the event with her husband and three children.
"We love it. They make such a big deal over the kids,'' she said. "It's a lot of fun.''
Co-director Dawn Lovejoy said the event will be back next year.
"We already have people asking to be title sponsors for next year,'' she said.
Amanda Hamon can be reached at 734-994-6852 or firstname.lastname@example.org.