Here at FATWHEELS we are all about inclusion. And that’s why I was so excited when Kelley Newman of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN., contacted me. Kelley organizes the hospital’s Tri My Best Triathlon. A swim, bike, run event for children of all abilities. This unique buddy program pairs children with and without disabilities to complete a race together as a team, using modifications if necessary.
Kelley said that children can complete the swim portion of the race by being pulled in a raft by their buddy or swimming with a noodle; whereas, the bike portion can be finished on an adaptive bike or by pedaling a standard bike alongside their buddy. Finally, the run portion of the race can be completed on the athlete’s own two feet or by being pushed in a wheelchair or jogging stroller by their buddy.
The goal of the program is not just physical, but social as well. Kelley said that she intends to match buddies and athletes of similar ages, in order to encourage peer interaction and help friendships grow.
Kelley is passionate and it’s infectious. “By working as a team, each child learns that winning is not just what happens at the end of the race, but during the journey of getting there together,” she said.
After that statement — I was sold. I loved the concept and was determined to get involved. I mobilized my team and we backed the event wholeheartedly.
The first Tri My Best Triathlon was held eight years ago in Augusta, GA. Since then, the concept has grown and this year adaptive triathlons are being organized nationwide. I encourage you to attend one. They are a fabulous way to spend a day as a volunteer, family member, athlete or simply a spectator.
Everyone should experience a Tri My Best Triathlon. Athletes, both with and without disabilities, are always proud of their accomplishment. Parents of children with disabilities are usually astounded at the ability of their child to complete a race, and parents of children who are helping as buddies are proud of their child’s efforts to help another child achieve success. Bystanders along the race course and finish line are very moved by the unity and efforts of each buddy team.
I couldn’t have said it any better.
Why not take it one step further and organize your own Tri My Best event? If you are a private therapy clinic enlist your staff and go for it! If you’re a parent, gather family members or special needs parents in your community and make it happen! Ask a special education teacher or physical therapist if they or some of their colleagues might want to get involved. Contacting your local children’s hospital or the physical therapy department at a university in your area may also be a good place to start. To get in touch with others, who have already taken the plunge, here are some contacts:
Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital (Nashville, TN)
St. Louis Children’s Hospital (St. Louis, MO)
Tender Touch Therapy (Kenosha, WI)
Let’s work together to help this movement continue to spread!
Until next time,