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Tri My Best Triathlon

Girl crossing finishing line

For children with developmental disabilities, like cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders, simple activities like running, biking and swimming don't come easy. Often times, participating in activities like soccer, basketball or football may never be a reality. But, for one day a year, there's a sporting event that creates a level playing field for these children and allows them to be true athletes.

Cook Children's Rehabilitation Services created the Tri My Best Triathlon to offer a unique experience for some of our own patients with varying disabilities and special needs. Cook Children's physical, occupation and speech therapists invite patients to participate, and then, on the day of the event, they are organized into heats of five, according to their ages and physical abilities.

Group after group, they bike, swim and "walk/run/roll" alongside kids that don't see them as different. Crowds of family and friends gather to cheer, not just for their athlete, but for every single child. The children's faces light up as they hear encouraging words from their families and spectators.

Each participant has a "buddy" to assist them during and between events, allowing the parents to sit back and enjoy the day as their child's biggest fan.

At the final event, the running portion, volunteers stand ready with pre-cut strips of paper so that every child has the opportunity to break through the finish line.

When the final group is done, there is a ceremony and each participant receives a medal. There are no best times or rankings, just the distinguished honor of being titled a triathlete.

Janaan Rodriguez, mother of two-time participant, Valencia (pictured above), was almost surprised at how the Tri My Best Triathlon has made such a positive impact on her daughter.

"Her confidence has grown big time, especially after the event," said Janaan. "It carries over through months after the actual event, into school and her physical therapy. She is so proud of herself and what she accomplished. She wants to work harder and do better because she sees the benefits of it."

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Thank you from each family, patient, nurse, physician and staff member whose life you will have touched with your generosity.