Week TwoOrganization: RunWell Events Inc. Type: Athletic Events w/ charitable partners Location: Ontario, Burnaby, Kelowna, Calgary Volunteer Commitment: Per event or crew opportunities Why: Because active lifestyles keep kids healthy!
If you live in Calgary you have probably never heard of TriKids Triathlons. That’s because this year was their pilot launch and what an event it was! With 300 athletes competing, children ranging from ages 3-15 participated in a day of fun in the sun. TriKids was created in 2009 by Brad and Tara Melville and sponsored by SunRype. Originating from Ontario, the races have expanded to B.C. and they are hoping to expand to other provinces such as Alberta (Edmonton, you just might be next if you’re lucky!)
The Melville’s dream is to get kids involved in Triathlons while they are still young, so that they can continue pursuing an active lifestyle as they grow up. Louise Coyne, a woman who started out as a volunteer and was invited back as the Volunteer Manager can tell you first-hand some of the success stories that these kids have after leaving the triathlons. Many of these kids go on to compete in other races and sports and sitting behind their awards and trophies was their first experience when they began in TriKids. You can tell the whole Melville family is truly passionate about hosting these triathlons. Even their little daughter Jenna is on the sidelines volunteering and fighting the urge to compete in the race as well. After talking with Tara she explained to me that before TriKids, there were no opportunities for children to revel in the joys of simply competing rather than focusing on winning. TriKids strives to ensure that every kid leaves happy, with an unforgettable experience, and for this reason they refuse to turn away any athletes.
Their motto is “Complete not compete!”
The race crew works together during the summer and travels to each of these races helping set up, take-down and ensuring the races run smoothly. Their job description entails anything from guiding the volunteer team to their posts, reassuring the over-protective parents that their young one will do just fine to treating these young athletes as their own family. I thought I had to wake up early to arrive at 8AM on a Sunday morning, but the dedicated individuals on the race crew arrived as early as 3AM to start setting up! If you adore kids this volunteer opportunity is one you can’t pass up! I cannot tell you how incredible it is being in such a fast-paced, excitement-filled environment with these kids. One of the itty-bitty toddlers in the 3-5 age group came out of the pool looking dazed and confused and his mom laughed as she held his hand and explained “he just doesn’t know why he had to get wet!” The kids aged 6-10 also had some of the best quotes of the day as well. While I was congratulating a boy on being the first of his wave out of the pool he replied “I came out first, REALLY? That’s pretty good then right? I’m doing good?”
“I don’t care if I win, I’m having SO MUCH FUN!” -(Age group 8-9)
During transition, volunteers can be requested to do any number of tasks to help these kids. Anything from taking down their bikes, tying their shoelaces, slipping on their shirts and race pinnies, running with them to their next check-point or even just giving them a pep-talk and boosting morale. There are many lessons to be learnt from the day. Whether it’s appreciating the time dedication of these enthusiastic volunteers (one sibling duo I met were planning on bussing for an hour and a half one-way to get to the race), the amazing team-work and support that the knowledgeable race crew fills, the friendly reminder from the kids that winning isn’t everything or the resilience shown in these exhausted kids who cross the finish lines simply because they won’t give up.
I want to leave you with one of the greatest moments I witnessed that day. It was the last wave of the day and there was just 5 athletes left for us to help transition from the swimming portion onto their bikes. This young man from the 14-15 age group began jogging out from the pool and you could tell he was beginning to run out of breath so he took a seat on the gravel as he put on his sneakers. Rather than buckling up and hopping on his bike as fast as he could he simply sat and stared at the ground for a bit, trying to re-hydrate. Concerned, his family came over and handed him juice-boxes and healthy snacks to help him out. His dad was standing by the fence telling him just to take it nice and easy as his competitive edge had gotten the best of him and he had exhausted himself in the first part of the race. I had to go tend to other wrap-up duties so I wasn’t able to see what happened after that. I was, however, down at the finish line when he came through. At this point, most of the athletes and their families had cleared out of the area, but coming through the gates, that young man and his dad by his side began the running portion – the last portion of the triathlon. As the two jogged around the field, the volunteers applauded and yelled words of encouragement. In the last 20 meters of the triathlon, he wrestled all his strength and stamina and burst into the quickest speed I’d seen anyone run all day. Although he was the last athlete to finish, I want to commend him on having the most spirit that day. It was something that reminded me of Derek Redmond and his father completing the Olympics together.
If you are interested in registering your kids for the TriKids Triathlons head over to http://www.trikids.ca/
If you are passionate about inspiring kids to lead active lives and create an environment of team-building and enthusiasm, join the volunteer team to make these races possible at http://www.trikids.ca/volunteer/ I forgot to mention, they will also sign letters for volunteer hours and will feed you tasty SunRype snacks too!