Selflessness Through Sport: Racing For Charity

A major gateway to the sport of triathlon, charity-racing programs pull thousands of people of all athletic backgrounds onto the start line.

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A major gateway to the sport of triathlon, charity-racing programs pull thousands of people of all athletic backgrounds off the couch and onto the start line. The experience can be life-changing, not only for those that benefit from the fundraising efforts, but also for the athletes involved, by creating a sense of purpose greater than one’s own fitness and accomplishment. Here we profile eight such programs, and also share the personal efforts of an individual with substantial ties to the sport.

Team Livestrong

In tandem with Lance Armstrong’s widely publicized return to triathlon, Team Livestrong aims to make a major statement in the multisport world starting in 2012. In addition to its well-established ride and run events, Livestrong’s Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) recently launched a new partnership with the World Triathlon Corporation with the goal of raising more than $1 million for people affected by cancer. The Lance factor is sure to have a swift and substantial impact: Within three weeks of the program’s announcement, more than 170 athletes had registered for Team Livestrong triathlon events.

The Give & Get:

– Commitment to fundraise for the LAF (minimum requirement range: $600–$1400 per event; athletes already race-registered may join Team Livestrong with no minimum commitment, however a small milestone exists in order to earn the signature black and yellow race kit)

– Guaranteed entry (complimentary or paid, depending on race) to a variety of triathlon events including Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 Florida and Ironman France

– Livestrong tri top, hat and race belt

– Personalized fundraising website and a library of fundraising tools (including “Six Easy Steps to Raising $1000” and “How to Start a Social Media Campaign”)

– One-on-one Livestrong staff support

Team In Training

The largest program worldwide to pair endurance sports with fundraising is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT). TNT athletes’ telltale purple kits and rallying cry of “Go Team!” underscore participants’ heartfelt support in the battle against blood cancers. TNT is well known for its coaching staff, led by six-time Ironman world champion Dave Scott. Many TNT alumni go on to become program coaches, team captains or fundraising mentors. To date, TNT has raised more than $1.2 billion to fund cancer research and to enhance the lives of blood cancer patients.

The Give & Get:

– Commitment to fundraise for the LLS (minimum requirement varies by event and participant’s proximity to race venue)

– Complimentary race entry (options include Lavaman, St. Anthony’s and Wildflower), travel and accommodation

– 4–5-month local training program with weekly group workouts, or choose new TNT Flex, a customized, online training option

– Certified coaching staff

– Mentors for fundraising support

– Customized website for fundraising

– Personal connection with a patient honoree to deepen participants’ understanding of TNT’s mission

Ballou Skies

Pittsburgh-based Ballou Skies was created by Ty Ballou to benefit his 24-year-old son, Ryan, born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The charity aims to raise muscular dystrophy awareness and funds for the heart clinic at Ohio State University, which performs heart scans of those afflicted with DMD to warn of future problems and to gain further knowledge of the disease.

The Give & Get:

– No minimum fundraising requirement—team is selected based on high engagement and concern for the cause.

– Team includes several world-class athletes—six team members qualified for the Ironman World Championship last year.

– Sponsors include Blueseventy, Newton, Coke, Powerade Zero and more, which provide funding, products and services.

– Creativity is encouraged in fundraising and ranges from “Biggest Loser” competitions in schools to sales of Ballou Skies-branded peanut butter.

Challenged Athletes Foundation

The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) offers triathletes numerous ways to support the organization’s mission of providing opportunities and grants to physically challenged individuals to pursue active, athletic lifestyles. CAF’s signature event, the Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge, offers the experience of racing alongside more than 200 challenged athletes and Ironman celebrities (Chrissie was there last year). Or opt to Race for a Reason at CAF’s premier partner events or any event of your choosing

The Give and Get:

– Race for a Reason requires a commitment to fundraise for CAF (registration fee and/or minimum fundraising requirement: $2500–$3000 per event).

– Guaranteed entry (complimentary or paid) to various Ironman, 70.3, Nautica Triathlon and Muddy Buddy events

– Fundraising Web page, tools and assistance from CAF’s fundraising managers

– Additional incentives: CAF gear, prizes, VIP access and inspiring pre-race luncheon

Janus Charity Challenge

Want a well-structured way to race and fundraise for the charity of your choice? The Janus Charity Challenge (JCC) was designed for you. Athletes compete in Life Time Fitness Triathlon Series events, raising funds for any verified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The JCC program has generated $51 million in donations since its inception in 2001.

The Give and Get:

– Commitment to fundraise for the charity of your choice (the JCC has no minimum requirement for participation)

– Paid registration is required in one of the following Life Time Fitness events: Nautica South Beach Triathlon, Capital of Texas Triathlon, Life Time Minneapolis Triathlon, Life Time Chicago Triathlon, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Triathlon or Toyota U.S. Open Triathlon.

– Opportunity for top fundraisers to earn additional charity prize purse donations from Janus

– Exclusive JCC triathlon race tank

MMRF’s Endurance Program

Join the fight against multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, by racing in a triathlon, cycling or running event in conjunction with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). Athletes can register for a premium MMRF partner event or a race of their choosing, and 90 percent of all funds raised by athletes on behalf of the MMRF go toward research and related programming.

The Give & Get:

– Commitment to fundraise for the MMRF (minimum requirement: $1,000–$5,000 per event, plus variable race registration fee)

– Guaranteed race entry (options include Ironman U.S. Championship, Escape From Alcatraz and Nautica NYC Triathlon)

– Fundraising tools and tips including personal fundraising page, downloadable marketing and promotional materials and sample e-mails and letters

– Training programs for athletes of all levels; Ironman program includes training plan and expert advice from 19-time Ironman and exercise physiologist Tom Holland.

– Race-day apparel, gift box, T-shirts and signage for athlete’s cheering squad

– The Run/Bike/Tri Your Own Race Program option includes full program benefits while allowing athletes to fundraise in conjunction with any endurance event.

Team Fox

Team Fox encourages athletes to “Run Like a Fox” in the fight against Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder affecting more than 5 million people worldwide. A branch of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), Team Fox provides training and fundraising guidance and support for triathletes and runners wishing to help fund research in the treatment and hunt for a cure for Parkinson’s.

The Give and Get:

– Commitment to fundraise for the MJFF (minimum requirement: $1,000–$5,000 per event)

– Guaranteed complimentary race entry (options include Ironman U.S. Championship, Escape From Alcatraz and Nautica New York City Triathlon)

– Fundraising resources, such as a customizable Web page, sample letters, Team Fox-branded materials and fundraising tips

– Additional benefits vary by event and may include Team Fox tri suit, organized group workouts, online training support, hotel accommodations and race weekend support, and special celebrations.

– The Team Fox Team option allows fundraising athletes to train together toward a common goal.

Athletes For A Cure

As a charitable arm of the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), Athletes for a Cure (AFAC) supports individuals in their efforts to run, bike, walk or race for a cure. Athletes choose to race in either an AFAC Featured Event (high-profile triathlons and marathons which are often otherwise sold out) or the Any Event, Anytime, Anywhere option.

The Give and Get:

– Commitment to fundraise for the PCF (minimum requirement range: $750–$5,000 per event)

– Guaranteed complimentary entry to a premier race (options include Ironman Canada, Ironman U.S. Championship, Ironman Arizona and St. Anthony’s)

– Opportunity to earn sponsor incentives including custom race kits, triathlon gear and travel discounts

– The Any Event, Anytime, Anywhere option has no minimum requirement or complimentary entry, but provides an online fundraising template, allowing athletes to join AFAC through any event of their choosing.

Honoring the Red, White and Blue

As a professional triathlete, Tim O’Donnell enjoys a lifestyle highlighted by training and racing all over the world. Yet he is firmly tied to his roots in the U.S. Navy, where he first cut his triathlon teeth leading the Naval Academy Men’s Team to two U.S. National Triathlon Championship titles and later pursued his Olympic dream while based at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

As a former naval officer, O’Donnell is a steadfast advocate for his military brethren, especially those facing the challenge of having been injured in the line of duty. “Our wounded veterans face unique obstacles returning from combat and transitioning back to civilian life,” says O’Donnell. “They need meaningful support during this critical time of starting over.”

As an ambassador for Team Red, White & Blue (, O’Donnell promotes the organization’s mission to transform the way wounded veterans are reintegrated into society. O’Donnell aligned his advocacy with his October 2011 debut at the Ironman World Championship, raising funds and awareness for the cause that is so close to his heart. Along with traditional call-outs for donations, O’Donnell rallied 19 top triathletes—including Chrissie Wellington, Matt Reed, Mirinda Carfrae, Julie Dibens and legends of the sport Mark Allen and Dave Scott—to sign a set of Profile Design Volna Carbon Aerobars that were auctioned for the cause. All told, O’Donnell’s efforts generated more than $14,000 for Team RWB.

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