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Chicago’s finest are duking it out for a year’s worth of bragging rights at the world’s largest triathlon on Sunday.
For the second year in a row, the 100 Club of Chicago has partnered with Life Time Fitness and the TransAmerica Chicago Triathlon for what has been dubbed the “Chicago Triathlon 100 Club Challenge.”
The Chicago Police Department and Chicago Fire Department are famously competitive against one another. While they have the shared mission of keeping the country’s third-largest city safe, that camaraderie does not extend to the arena of sport, where the two organizations square off annually in everything from boxing to football—and yes, even triathlon. But even though the competition is often very fiery amongst Chicago’s finest (the annual hockey game is particularly intense and draws huge crowds), the two sides use their somewhat-friendly competitions to raise money for a variety of worthy charities in the city they serve and protect.
Their goal this Sunday—besides to win the coveted Club Challenge trophy—is to raise funds for the 100 Club of Chicago, a non-profit that supports families of first responders killed in the line of duty.
It’s a remarkable charity. When a first responder loses his or her life, a member of the 100 club is at their home within 24 hours to provide the first of two checks totaling $50,000. There are no forms to fill out, no lines to stand in and no waiting on hold on the phone. There’s no bureaucracy whatsoever—just vital funds for a family during a time of crisis.
“It’s more than just financial assistance,” says 100 Club CEO Joe Ahern. “It’s tuition assistance for their kids and counseling so we can help the family navigate a horrible tragedy.”
The 100 Club of Chicago is currently helping 21 college students with tuition assistance and will support another 67 once they reach college. Over the past 50 years, the organization has provided more than $10 million for 262 families in the greater Chicago area. Sadly, that works out to five or six fallen first responders each year.
While last year was the first year that the race partnered with the 100 Club, the genesis of the challenge goes back to 2007. That’s when a group of Chicago police officers signed up for the Chicago Triathlon and made a friendly wager against a group of officers from the local FBI office. The following year they invited first responders from various agencies throughout the country and the annual challenge snowballed from there. For the second annual 100 Club Challenge this Sunday, Ahern expects 125 first responders from the Chicago area to take part and they’ve already raised $25,000—more than twice as much money as they did a year ago.
“It’s not just about raising money,” Ahern says. “It’s a great way for us to spread the word about the work we do to help families of first responders. The triathlon is an important part of our outreach so we can tell our story to a group of people we don’t always get to tell it to.”
The top 20 finishers in this Sunday’s challenge will receive points for their respective teams and those points will determine whether the 100 Club Challenge trophy will spend the next 12 months at the police or fire headquarters. And while the end goal for all involved is to raise funds and awareness for the 100 Club, the competition is sure to be fierce.
“There’s a real rivalry in everything they do,” Ahern says. “We just had a police versus fire hamburger eating contest and the competition got very heated.”