Thursday, March 8, 2012
In 2011, Keri Schindler of Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association informed me of a brand new paratriathlon club in the city of Chicago. In fact, at the time, it was the first paratriathlon club in the country to be recognized and sanctioned by USAT, the governing body of triathlons. Keri asked if I wish to join their weekly practices on Thursday afternoon to bike and run. Soon, I learned of several races which the club would race in as a team. I was excited to hear they would participate in triathlons and duathlons. They would also have a relay option for those athletes who did not feel quite strong in tackling all three disciplines on a given day. I was most excited that there were other folks who were joining Keri to start this club which was called Dare2Tri Chicago. Two of the other individuals were accomplished coaches while the fourth person was Melissa Stockwell, a veteran of the Iraq War who lost her leg when a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle in which she was riding three weeks after Melissa arrived in the Middle East. As a result of the attack, she lost one of her legs. Melissa struggled to adjust, but found strength in the outpouring of strangers from the Wounded Warrior Project. she also found strength in those who believed in her enough to get her to get back in a swimming pool. Melissa loved the pool because while in there, she could be herself and have fun. Before long, she was competing in swim meets. Shortly afterwards, she was trying out this sport called triathlon. In 2010, she qualified for the PC National Championships. Not only did she compete in the NYC Triathlon, but she won her division and competed at Worlds where she proudly carried the American flag down the final stretch on route to being the world champion! Now, I had a chance to be involved in an organization which she co-founded. I jumped at it! The day I raced in my first event with Dare2Tri was so joyous as I met Todd Smith, the man who volunteered to guide me. We had a great time at the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon. It was so moving for me to come face-to-face with Melissa. she is such an inspiring figure. In 2011, Melissa once again qualified for the PC Nationals. She once again won the NYC event. For the second consecutive year, Melissa beat the field to claim the title of world champion. As Melissa prepares to try for a third straight title, Dare2Tri enters its second year of competition. Regular practices will start in May and races will begin in June. Before those take place, Dare2Tri will host a kickoff fundraiser in April. This is a very important event for Dare2Tri as the organization operates strictly based on the money received from donations. The triathletes who sight guide anyone who is blind, the handler for those who have a physical disability, and those who help organize practice or race day activities are all volunteers working together. Dare2Tri has the motto: One inspires many. In order for that one person to inspire, many have to join forces. For those in the Chicago area, please consider attending this fundraiser. For those outside the area, please consider visiting the web site and supporting any way you can. You can donate money or offer encouragement to the Dare2Tri family. You will certainly read more about Keri, Melissa, and Dare2Tri this coming season as I plan to race in several events with this group.