BEND, Ore. -

It all started with a hat.

"That was the whole reason to start it, to make some money so I could buy the kids some hats so I could find them when we're on the slopes," said Jenny Sheldon, a co-founder of Bend's U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle, the multi-sport event that brings thousands to Central Oregon.

But back in 1977, Jenny Sheldon was a ski coach with a vision.

"So I thought this would be a cool place to do the Pole Pedal Paddle," she said.

Sheldon participated in a similar Pole Pedal Paddle event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. When she moved to Bend, she wanted to bring the event with her.

Although the business plan wasn't very formal, she had community support from the start.

"So I had these two incredibly visionary men, (long-time Bend parks director) Vince Genna and Bill Healy, totally behind it. And they just said, 'If you can pull it off, do it,'" Sheldon recalled.

Together with her husband Dave Sheldon and a friend, Marilyn Karnopp, she did just that.

There couldn't have been a better year to start the PPP, as 1977 was a drought year. The lack of snow put an economic strain on the community.

"But then I actually went and talked to (Mt. Bachelor founder) Bill Healy, and he said: 'whatever you can do to bring people to the mountain this year, I totally support it," Sheldon said.

The Pole Pedal Paddle  was immediately a smash success -- enough to impress Healy.

The letter Healy wrote Sheldon after the first PPP is proof, as Sheldon reads it aloud: "Looks as though it was so successful that you may have started a monster. I'm proud of you. Mount Bachelor Inc, Bill Healy."

The race has been around for 38 years now. What started with just 12 teams in 1977, has grown to 450 teams this year.