Q & A With Co-founder Gary Kayye

Gary_story 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.

This article by Amanda MacLaren originally appears here.

Newsmakers: Gary Kayye

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.

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