The seventh annual Swim for Smiles youth triathlon was held Sunday at Briar Chapel and raised tens of thousands of dollars for N.C. Children’s Hospital. About 520 children ages 5 to 19 biked, swam and ran for a good cause. The event has grown each year since its inception and raised more than $200,000 total.
Jahner came our to our 7th Annual Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon this past weekend, Sept. 8, 2013. Read his story below, which originally appears here.
Youth, charity served at Chapel Hill triathlon
By Kyle Jahner
CHAPEL HILL — Like a father needing to buy a bigger bike for a growing child, the Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon shifted to a bigger locale for its seventh edition.
But the core didn’t change: Tens of thousands of dollars raised and hundreds of competitors pouring sweat – and in cases blood and tears – into a morning of swimming, biking and running.
More than 520 youngsters aged five to 19 participated in the event concocted from Gary Kayye’s love of triathlons and his gratitude for the hospital that saved his daughter’s life. This year the Briar Chapel neighborhood south of Chapel Hill hosted what Kayye said will likely be the second largest youth triathlon in the country.
As it has grown over the years, the race – with its motto “kids helping kids” – has raised more than $200,000 for children’s hospitals, most of it going to the N.C. Children’s Hospital.
At the hospital in Chapel Hill, Kayye’s daughter was diagnosed at age four with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a rare neurological disorder. She was treated for nine weeks. She survived and is now 17.
“That’s a life-changing experience. A doctor at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital saved her life, so it made me want to give back to that hospital at some point in time,” Kayye said. “When I got involved in triathlons, that’s when I started noticing kids (didn’t have their own triathlons) – and I put two and two together.”
Continue reading and view his awesome pictures here.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–In a triathlon, whether you like the swimming part, biking, running or free ice cream at the end, there is one thing about the Swim for Smiles youth triathlon that no one is on the fence about.
The 7th annual Swim for Smiles triathlon made waves in North Carolina on Sunday and it is one of the largest youth triathlons in the United States.
This event is also something Swim for Smiles foundation co-founder Gary Kayye said “is going to be one of those days the swimmers will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Kayye started the event as a way to give back to the N.C. Children’s Hospital, after his daughter battled a serious illness. She and the event are doing well today.
The triathlon the first kids only race in North Carolina and gives youth a chance, even if they are not able to swim, bike or run.
“I love seeing the kids getting involved in the sport and at the same time helping the kids at the children’s hospital,” Kayye said.
Sabrina and Sydney Thompson at the 2012 Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon.
Sunday, September 8
8am: The seventh annual Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon – held for the first time in the fall – offers a new, wider course in Briar Chapel to accommodate more participants. Registration ($65-$150) is open to kids ages 5-18 and includes short- and long-course options, plus a limited number of relay teams. All money goes to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. Visit the website or call (919) 969-7501 for more information.
Chapel Hill Magazine’s Amanda MacLaren recently interviewed our co-founder Gary Kayye about Swim for Smiles and the upcoming 7th Annual Youth Triathlon.
The 7th Annual Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon is a USA Triathlon-sanctioned race and will be held at the Briar Chapel community in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Sept. 8. The new venue accommodates more participants and offers a wider course.
Gary’s daughter, Annabelle, was diagnosed with Acute Demyelenating Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) when she was 4 years old. Since then, Annabelle has recovered, and Gary credits UNC Hospitals and its doctors with saving her life. Wanting to give back in some way, he teamed up with fellow swim parent Laura Gondek to create the Swim for Smiles Foundation in 2005. Its seventh annual triathlon, the organization’s biggest event, will be held in the fall for the first time on Sunday, Sept. 8. The USA Triathlon-sanctioned race offers a new, wider course in Briar Chapel to accommodate more participants. Registration is open to kids ages 5-18 and includes short- and long-course options, plus a limited number of relay teams. All money goes to the N.C. Children’s Hospital.
1- Swim for Smiles was the largest children’s triathlon in the U.S. a couple years ago. Why do you think it’s taken off like it has?
We were in the right place at the right time. We put together a kids’ race right at the peak of popularity of adult triathlons. In 2010 and ‘11, it was the fastest growing sport in the world. I think a lot of parents who were involved in it wanted their kids to be involved, too.
I also think we have a very active community here in Chapel Hill. In fact, we were told by USA Triathlon back in 2011 or 2012 that North Carolina was one of the top five states overall for adult triathlons. I think we kind of got lucky in the sense that we started our race as the sport was building in popularity and I think that we peaked at the right time. Now, it was just announced about a month ago that triathlon is going to be an NCAA sport in 2018 for girls and 2019 for boys. I think we started at the right time, because some of the kids that are involved in our triathlon will absolutely become triathletes in college.
2- How intensive is the training for the triathlon?
We do put on clinics before the race and, of course, we put out a tremendous amount of education information. If you go to our website, www.swimforsmiles.org, we teach you the steps of how to do a triathlon. For the last six years, more than half of the kids have been participating in their first triathlon. But the nice thing is we have a short course, which can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to complete. And then we have a long course for kids who are a little more experienced, which is twice the distance in each area basically, and that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The younger kids gravitate towards the shorter course and the older kids gravitate towards the longer course, and we have some kids who are extremely athletic and do both courses in the same day.
The Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon wouldn’t be The Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon if it weren’t for the hard work friends, family, volunteers, community businesses, Chapel Hill and Carrboro town officials — and especially the kids — put into making this event an amazing success.
In all this celebrating, let’s not forget those that have helped spread the word about the triathlon — and even showed up to help us document all the fun and energy.
The Swim for Smiles Team would like to say thanks to all the news organizations that came out on Sunday to support us!
WCHL’s talented Ross Maloney recorded a PSA for the Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon happening this Sunday! Tune into WCHL (1360 AM or 97.9 FM). If you’re listening between 6 – 9 a.m. and 5 – 6 p.m. now through Sunday, you’re almost sure to hear it!
Thanks, WCHL, for helping us spread the word!
But just in case you want a listen before that happens, we’ve got it for you here!
Get excited, everyone! Only three more days until the race!
At the Chapel Hill Country Club this past Sunday morning, there was a magician, inflatable play apparatus, free ice cream, a fire-juggler, face painting, thirst-quenching beverages for the taking, and even a man on stilts.Did we mention the ice cream?
Incidentally, there was also a triathlon.
Ask any of the well-over 500 young participants in the fourth annual Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon what was the favorite leg of the three-leg, swim-bike-run competition, and it was the write-in vote for a fourth option that carried the day: “The ice cream.”
“The running was the toughest part,” said Marissa Tocci, 9, who posted a top-20 finish in the short-course triathlon.
When queried if ice cream just past the finish line qualified as the best part of the day, Tocci responded simply with a nod and a wide chocolate grin.
For women’s short course overall first place finisher Sarah Taekman, 12, the race didn’t finish until the final scoop.
“I ran straight for the ice cream stand after I finished,” Taekman said, smiling.
Those spoonfuls of frozen cream and sugar helped the medicine go down, not just for the participants, but for patients at North Carolina Children’s Hospital, the Swim for Smiles’ benefactor.
With 542 participants this year, the non-profit Swim for Smiles Foundation’s Youth Triathlon is the second-largest youth triathlon event in the country. Open to kids from ages 6-18, the USA Triathlon (USAT) event includes two courses for all levels of participants.
A short course triathlon was comprised of a 100-meter swim, 2.5 -mile bike, and a 1K (0.6-mile) run. The long course consisted of a 300-meter swim, a five-mile bike, and a 3K (1.8-mile) run.
Chapel Hill High School varsity runner Alex Werden, 16, won the males’ competition on the long course, with a final time of 29:13.1. Rebekah Greengrass, 13, of Cary won the females’ division in 37:15.5.
“It hurt today,” said Werden, who was eighth into the pool thanks to his swimming seed time but made up ground on the bike and running legs. “It was a little muggy out, but it was fun.”
Werden said he’d not been training as much in the pool this year relative to the last.
In the boys short-course event, Ryan Lonegan, 10, won with a time of 17:06.4. Sarah Taekman, 12, was the top female in the short course (19:04).
“It felt really tiring,” said Taekman, who has competed ever since the event’s inception. “I was sort of wiped out. My legs were like Jello in the run portion.”
Gary Kayye, who founded the S4S triathlon with Laura Gondek, said Swim for Smiles’ longer event was growing at a rate of about 30 more entrants a year.
“We have kids as young as 7 doing the long course competition,” Kayye noted. “They’ve done the short course so many times, they’re confident in doubling the distance.”
Both courses featured rolling hills along the run course, however, which tested most competitors. Those hills included a 70-meter uphill jaunt to the finish line.
“Some kind of sick person must’ve thought of that,” Tocci said, laughing.
After thunderstorms sent everyone scurrying from the pool for the obligatory grace period during last year’s event, storms this year came during the overnight hours on Saturday evening, leaving virtually no trace of adverse weather by race time. The rain also left no trace of race course markings on the roads.
“All I was thinking (when it rained) was that we’d spent three hours marking the course with chalk,” Kayye said, “and I had to get up at 4 a.m. Sunday to mark the course again. But that was okay.
“The first kids started showing up at around 6:00 a.m., and they already had these giant smiles on their faces. That picks you up no matter how tired you are.”
Founded on the principle of “kids helping kids” in 2005, the Swim for Smiles foundation holds multiple events every summer, traditionally including the youth triathlon and Wacky Relay Day for the Chapel Hill Summer Swim League.
All proceeds are now donated to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, and the foundation has donated a total nearing $200,000 to local children’s hospitals to date.
“We hope to be up around $20,000 or $25,000 this year,” Kayye said.” We’re small compared to most fundraisers, but not many bring in 2,000 people to one location like this either. Bringing that many people in and out of here in 4 hours and not having injuries: that’s what I care about.”
“The race is a lot bigger this year,” Kayye added. This year, with 540 kids (compared to 435 participants in 2009) we moved the transition area to handle that number of kids, and we also doubled the number of volunteers. It’s been a little harder to operate simply because it’s so much larger.”
Kayye also expressed heartfelt thanks to the venue host, Chapel Hill Country Club, and volunteers who made bigger numbers manageable. N.C. Aquatics Club, with 54 entrants in the triathlons, also provided a sizeable number of race volunteers.
Merchants and organizations who lined the area near the finish line were also a benefit to competitors.
“When we started, I got the bike out of the car, and the back tire was totally flat,” said boys’ short-course 13-14 age group titlist Whitaker Burns. “It was slit open, but some people from (the Bicycle Chain) helped. If they hadn’t helped, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
The Swim for Smiles Foundation will be back in action July 10 for the Wacky Relay Day. This event is a season-ending opportunity for Chapel Hill Summer Swim League participants to come together and raise money. Events include noodle races, pyramid relays, and parent-child relays.
As for the Youth Triathlon, Kayye said he is happy with the size and scope of the event as it is currently.
“The growth is gratifying,” he said, “but we’re also happy with where we are right now. We have another 100 kids on the waiting list. … We may go to 550 next year, but I don’t think we’ll go any higher than that. We also want a quality race where everybody’s safe.”
If there’s enough room for growth, perhaps another leg for a “quadrathlon.”