Race of a Lifetime: The Culmination of Passion, Knowledge & Experience

In January of 2011 we took our idea, our dream and launched it by starting the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club! There is no real epiphany moment that any of us can remember about how we decided to start the club. It was just 3 friends, all triathletes with a passion for the sport and the knowledge that it has the power to change lives. Dan and Keri work in the field of disabled sports, Keri for Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association and Dan for the Chicago Park District. Melissa is a two time world champion Paratriathlete and a prosthetist. Starting a Paratri club just seemed like the perfect platform for us to combine our passion, knowledge and experiences. We enlisted the help of the most qualified coach we knew, Stacee Seay, and we had put together our team. With about $8,000 in grant money from the Olympic Opportunity Fund we were launched.  We found out that the grant was funded just before it was announced that Paratriathlon would debut at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Our timing could not be more perfect.

Our original goals were conservative to say the least. We thought if we could get 8-10 people to participate in a triathlon we would have been successful. The interest and excitement for our Paratriathlon program blew us away. Currently we have over 85 youth, adult and injured service members on the roster and more than 150 committed and dedicated volunteers and we continue to grow. We provide our athletes of all ages and experience levels with bi-weekly practices, multisport clinics, individualized coaching, race entry assistance, uniforms, specific training plans and more. We also provide and maintain the adaptive equipment and make it available to our athletes for both practices and races. Our club motto is ‘One Inspires Many’ as we not only inspire each other but inspire the surrounding community. We could not be more thrilled with the momentum of the club or more proud of the community we have created. In just one year we have created something that was just an idea of ours and made it into something real. Our vision and dream is alive and thriving.

A brief recap of year one: we launched Dare2tri, hosted an amazing camp despite a few last minute complications, participated in 3 community triathlons where we inspired many, helped many kids, adults and injured service members get to not only their first starting line but also their first finish line, had Lake Forest High School student Ciara Connell design an amazing logo, had some cool looking custom uniforms created, was featured in Triathlon magazine and on ABC News with Karen Meyer, currently have representation on the USAT Mideast and Paratri councils, got our level 1 coaching certifications, Dan got his youth certification, were featured on Chicago Park District’s television channel where 2 of our athletes received amazing adaptive bikes of their own from the Variety Club of Illinois, filmed an episode for Everyday Health Heroes reality TV show, became incorporated, formed a board of directors, are currently in the process of becoming a tax exempt 501c3 thanks to DLA Piper,  was a finalist for $10,000 in the Hartford Achieve Contest (although we didn’t win),  Melissa became a two time world champion and Keri joined the prestigious Ironman Club.

WOW, that is a pretty exciting first year. There is so much in store for us in 2012 as well. A few highlights include: a new website, becoming an official non for profit organization, having Dare2tri promotional materials thanks to Carolyn Bielski, offering many more clinics to support our athletes including our upcoming swim clinic and One Day Multisport Clinic, hosting our first annual kickoff/fundraising event, our 2nd annual Dare2tri Paratri Training Camp, and fielding the first Dare2tri Elite Team at Paratri Nationals.  Most of all we are looking forward to all the amazing things we will accomplish, people we will get to meet and lives we will inspire.

Please go to www.dare2tri.org to learn more about our club and how you can help. Many of these individuals have high medical bills and adaptive sports equipment is not covered under insurance. We believe that by remaining active, our athletes will build confidence in other areas of their life and truly believe that they can do anything they want to do. With your support we can make a difference in the lives of our athletes and continue to inspire many!

Melissa Stockwell an Iraq War Veteran and a World Champion Paratriathlete, with two friends, founded the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club, with the goal of getting athletes with disabilities to the starting line of a triathlon.

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