On Nov. 15, 2013 a pall enveloped the entire dirt bike racing community when news broke of Kurt Caselli's death. One of the most beloved and successful figures in racing, Caselli hit a large animal while competing in the Baja 1000 in Mexico and succumbed to his injuries before medical personnel could tend to him.
His sudden death at age 30 affected everyone from off-road to Supercross and Motocross. Not only was he part of the community family, but the accident simply reinforced what most riders push way back into their subconscious, riding dirt bikes, whether on the Motocross track or desert trails is a dangerous sport.
As the out-pouring of grief slowly abated and those who knew him just by name or in passing moved on, his family and those close to him were still faced with a broken heart and an empty hole in their lives. Shortly after, a ride day in his honor was held at Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California where thousands of fans came to honor his legacy and Sarah White, Caselli's fiancée, announced the start of the Kurt Caselli Foundation.
Name: The Kurt Caselli Foundation
Year Founded: 2013
Who Founded: Sarah White, Nancy Caselli, Carolyn Caselli, Donnie Emler, Jon-Erik Burleson, Antti Kallonen, Christy LaCurelle
Mission: Help fund technology for increased rider safety and award scholarships
Email: Contact page
- Sarah White, president of the foundation
- Quinn Cody, teammate of Kurt's and adviser to the foundation
1. How did the foundation get started?
Sarah White: After Kurt passed away it was very apparent that we needed to do something in his name. At the ride day following his death we raised $60,000 and we wanted to do something. We had thrown out the idea of a non-profit foundation. Very soon after that a group of us got together to discuss exactly what we wanted the foundation to stand for and represent.
2. Was there a discussion on what the foundation would raise money for or did you know from the start it's got to be about safety?
SW: Yes, there were many discussions on what we were going to focus on, where we were going to start, and where we hoped to be in the future. At our first meeting we all got together to decide what the foundation would be. Everyone was very supportive of Nancy (Caselli), Carolyn (Caselli) and myself. Nancy and I were big on the safety aspect. Carolyn wanted there to be a scholarship included. Everyone had great ideas. Donny Emler, Jon Erik (Burleson), Antti (Kallonen) and Christy (LaCurelle) were also very much a part of deciding what our mission would be and how we would go about best getting it out there. Every person on our team has been a huge part since day one.
3. Once the news settled and all the facts were in was there a safety issue found that could have prevented the accident?
SW: Of course after what happened there was a lot of "why didn't this happen, where was this, who did that, why why why." But it all comes down to this is a dangerous sport and there is nothing anyone could do to take away all the risk. Kurt understood the risk, he would always tell me "it's not if you're going to crash but when." Granted when he would say that I was always thinking a blown out knee or broken shoulder at worst, something that would prevent him from walking. But that day Kurt was going fast and there was no way to know that there was a horse in the road.
Quinn Cody: It's difficult to point to just one issue that caused his accident. There was a whole chain of events that happened that day that ultimately lead to the accident and problems with his rescue. In the end it comes down to being prepared for the worst-case scenario. We have worked hard to help develop technology that will automatically alert rescue teams when a rider is down.
4. Did Kurt ever express concerns or interest about safety especially in off-road or was focusing on safety as the foundation's mission a natural fit considering what happened?
SW: Kurt always had his opinion on things that could be changed or things that he felt could be done differently. He spoke of those things to Nancy and myself. His team was also always very supportive of his ideas when he was here with us and now the foundation can now keep Kurt's voice and ideas very much alive.
5. There are all sorts of safety related concerns like rider equipment, the bikes and even on the tracks and trails is there a specific focus the foundation works on or is it anything and everything?
SW: We are working on all those things mentioned. We have had many great ideas introduced to us that we have supported. Not everything we've done was talked about for months or planned ahead of time. There has been a few this or that presented that we liked and felt needed our support so we would go with it. Obviously we can only do so much at a time but we definitely have big plans and put every dollar we get to work!
QC: Initially the focus of the Foundation was mainly geared towards race course safety and technology to help prevent future accidents like Kurt's. Now that we have had some time to evaluate things and decide where to best focus our efforts we have broken our mission down into four programs: Race Course Safety, Youth Racing development, The Kurt Caselli Memorial Scholarship, and Development of New Technology.
6. Does the foundation primarily target off-road events or any events involving dirt bikes?
SW: We aren't only for dirt bikes or off-road. But that is where we have started. For example we purchased an ultrasound machine for the Asterisk Mobile Medical unit that works with Supercross and Outdoors and asked in return they work with Rescue 3 team from the off-road community. We were even able to send a few of them to a Supercross to work with the Asterisk team. We are hoping to be able to help wherever we are needed but still staying focused on what we are in the middle of in order to get lasting results.
QC: Our primary focus is off-road racing because of the risks involved, however much of what we do carries over to help your average guy just out for a trail ride. We have also partnered with The Asterisk Mobile Medical Team to share information on things like concussion management and gathering data on different types of injuries. One of the first major things we did as a Foundation was purchase an Ultrasound for The Asterisk MMC to help them diagnose internal injuries.
7. What changes or enhancements have been implemented in the industry thanks to the foundation since its founding?
QC: Some of the biggest changes have been in Baja, with the implementation of new Satellite tracking software that will automatically alert when a vehicle has stopped.
SCORE has also changed the protocol for aerial support so that rescue helicopters are within range of the lead motorcycles at all times during daylight hours. We have also implemented Opening Vehicles (both air and ground) that will clear the race course ahead of the lead motorcycles through the most populated areas.
8. What is the foundation currently working on and what do you want to tackle in the future?
QC: Currently we are working on building our Concussion Management Program. We have started a trial program with the AMA Youth Hare & Hound Series. We administer a baseline test on each racer using the King-Devick Test, then if a first responder suspects a rider has suffered a concussion they can administer the test again to determine if the rider has a concussion or not. We believe that it's important to educate parents and kids about the risks of repetitive concussions. In the future we would like to expand this program to youth racing organizations throughout the country.
9. It's been a year and half since that day, how is the family doing?
SW: That's a hard question. We are all trying to stay positive and strong like Kurt would want us. At times it's hard to be so closely connected to what the foundation stands for. It definitely keeps the reality close to home and at times can be very emotional for us all. But at the end of the day we know we are doing something so great.
10. What do you think Kurt would say about the foundation and what it's doing?
SW: Kurt would be and is so proud of what we are doing. If someone was to tell him that this would all happen if he passed away I know he wouldn't believe it. I know he is so honored and so grateful for everything. I also know that he is so happy and so proud of Nancy, Carolyn, myself and everyone else who has been involved in keeping his legacy alive.