Considering the elimination of professional prize purses at many races for 2015, there has been a fair amount of negativity across the pro ranks recently. Which is why the story behind some of the athletes racing Challenge Atlantic City serves as a reminder of the positive effect and power the sport of triathlon can really have.
At Sunday’s Challenge Atlantic City, multiple pro athletes—including current Ironman North America Champion Angela Naeth and last year’s Atlantic City second-place finisher Scott DeFilippis—will race on behalf of Race2Rebuild, a national nonprofit that supports the rebuilding of homes after natural disasters through endurance racing.
Instead of contending for a podium spot and the money to match it (Challenge recently pulled the prize purse from the race), the athletes are raising money that will go directly towards the rebuilding of a family’s home affected by Hurricane Sandy. Although Sandy was nearly three years ago now, the damage of the devastating storm and its effect on the communities it hit is still very much a reality for years to come. Race2Rebuild was formed with the goal of supporting the recovery process long after the immediate relief has dissipated.
DeFilippis, who is a Jersey Shore native, met Race2Rebuild founder Sarah Hartmann last year and was impressed with what she was doing for the organization and was also inspired to see three-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae (and her husband Tim O’Donnell) race on a R2R relay team.
“Sarah learned about my Jersey Shore roots and asked if I wanted to be involved with them for 2015,” he says. “Because so many of my friends and neighbors were affected by Hurricane Sandy, I thought it would a great way for me to try and help some folks back east.” DeFilippis and his girlfriend, fellow pro triathlete and two-time Challenge Penticton winner Carrie Lester, will team up for a relay on Sunday.
Recent Ironman Texas winner Naeth will be racing the swim and bike of the full-distance relay, anchored by a friend who is running her first marathon. Her husband is also racing his first full-distance triathlon in Atlantic City, and the couple decided the race would be a great opportunity to support the cause. “We are helping a family build a home after losing theirs from Hurricane Sandy—it doesn’t get more amazing than that,” Naeth says.
Athletes had a variety of race-distance options to choose from—either the half or full on their own or either one as a relay. A total team of 20 athletes will be racing this weekend, with a mix of age group and pro triathletes including Guilheme Campos, Jacquie Gordon (who was second there last year) and Dan McIntosh. Seeing how bad of shape the area was still in while racing the full distance last year, McIntosh immediately got on board to help and serves as a R2R ambassador.
“Too often we are good about responding in the moment but we lose focus prematurely on a crisis the moment the next comes along,” he says. “These are people like me as far as socioeconomics—they are often hard to identify and reach, so often [they get] passed over when the first relief comes and then when society’s attention shifts to the next disaster, they’re all but forgotten. They work, they have families, they owned homes and still have value on what they own, but they just need help rebuilding. R2R is small enough where the dollars go directly to the effort and the athletes involved are encouraged to get involved with the actual rebuilding— literally building the homes. I really like that part.”
Pro triathletes Rebeccah and Laurel Wassner, who are both R2R ambassadors, will also join at the finish line after they race TriRock Philadelphia Sunday morning.
The money raised will fund rebuilding projects in New Jersey, where athletes will have the opportunity to meet the families they support and volunteer to rebuild their homes. You can learn more about what Race2Rebuild does and sign up to race at one of their events at Race2rebuild.org. Or, if you want to donate to the cause, you can do so here: https://www.crowdrise.com/Race2Rebuild2015
*Editor’s note: Author Jené Shaw is a Race2Rebuild ambassador.