SouthSpecial NeedsSports

My Turn to Tri Special Needs Triathlon

by Janet Jonus

Special needs kids just want the same opportunities to do things everyone else does. Unfortunately, even with the ADA and the move toward inclusion, some activities remain out of reach for our special kids. (FamilyFunPittsburgh is a special needs family.) For some families, that is the end of the dream, but for others it is the chance to create something new and wonderful.

The My Turn to Tri Special Needs Triathlon was born from the desire for a special needs brother who wanted to join his older sisters in a triathlon. The family looked around but could not find a triathlon for special needs kids. (There are events for adults.) So they created their own event.

“The girls really took the lead,” says proud Mom Kristine. “The whole event was organized by my daughters, Ally, Jillian, and Gabrielle and their friend Victoria.”

The girls learned the details of starting a business. They designed the logo and the athlete t-shirts, got sponsors, and worked with the Spencer Family YMCA to set up the event.

Brother Christian is excited, “He wants to do the swim and get a trophy.”

The My Turn to Tri Special Needs Triathlon is a mini-triathlon open for any kids with a disability. Every athlete will need to bring a race assistant to help them throughout the race.

“Anyone can participate no matter what their special needs are,” Kristiine says. “Cognitive, social, autism, physical disabilities are all welcome.”

The Triathlon starts with a ten-minute swim in the lap pool or zero-entry pool. “Kids can swim or just splash around,” Kristine explains.

The event heads outside for a ten-minute bike ride. “Kids can use any form of transportation – wheelchairs, bikes, strollers,” Kristine says. “Each child will need to bring their own ride-on.”

The Triathlon ends with a one-mile walk. “The athletes will walk or run together to the finish line.”

After the Triathlon, the athletes will be treated to a luncheon with inspirational speaker Eric McElvenny. Mr. McElvenny is a local Marine who was wounded in Afghanistan. He has not let his loss of a leg slow him down. He has competed in more than 50 races. He has completed seven Ironman Triathlons. Kristine adds, “Eric McElvenny is an inspirational endurance athlete and speaker. “

Every athlete will receive a swag bag, a T-shirt, and lots of love and support.

“The community has really helped us out a lot,” Kristine says. “Trader’s Joes has donated bananas and bottled water for the athletes. Eat n Park has donated Smiley Cookies, and Pro Bikes has donated gift cards for a raffle. Of course the Spencer Family YMCA has been generous with their time and facilities.”

Kristine wants this to be an annual event. There is still time to register for this Sunday’s Triathlon. Pre-registered athletes need to report at 700AM. If you still need to register, show up at 630AM. All athletes must have a race assistant, a ride-on for the “bicycle” event and a helmet, and appropriate clothing for swimming, bicycling, and the walk/run. Registration costs $35. If you want to volunteer to help during the Triathlon you can register online. All of the information is here: https://www.pittsburghymca.org/mytri

The Spencer Family YMCA is located at 305 Church Road in Bethel Park PA.

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