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TRYathlon gives people with disabilities an opportunity to succeed

by Joshua D. Scroggin
April 24, 2017
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From left, CoastHills Community Relations Officer Amanda Hollingworth, TRYathlon founder Jamie Woodard, event participant Matthew Shuck and event organizer Rebecca Anastasio display a check for $300 courtesy of the Credit Union's Community Action Sponsorship program. The TRYathlon is a swim, bike and run event designed specifically for people with disabilities.

It only took a few weeks as a personal trainer for Jamie Woodard to realize her newest client had limitless potential in the gym.

Jamie had always believed fitness was a crucial component to everybody’s well being, and now she was seeing it in action.

Not long after Beth Anastasio started working with Jamie at Kennedy Club Fitness in Atascadero, Jamie noticed Beth’s self-esteem blossoming. Her entire demeanor had changed. For the first time, Beth’s eyes lit up when she walked into the club. It was then that Jamie knew she needed to get Beth into a local triathlon.

It didn’t matter that Beth was born with Down Syndrome and autism.

Fitness was just as empowering to her as it was to everyone else.

“The only limitations this population has are the ones society puts on them,” Jamie said. “It’s from other people constantly underestimating them. They actually don’t have ‘special’ needs. They just have ‘needs’ just like you and me.”

And so the TRYathlon was born.

May 6th will mark Jamie’s second annual swim, bike and run event designed specifically for people with disabilities. Held at Kennedy Club Fitness in Atascadero, the TRYathlon is for ages 10 and up.

Each participant will go as far and as fast as they can for 15 minutes in each event and is accompanied every step, stroke and pedal of the way by volunteers to cheer them on. Everyone who tries receives a medal and a t-shirt.

Registration costs $10 per person, but thanks to dozens of volunteers and donations like the one for $300 from the CoastHills Community Foundation, 100 percent of the registration fees are donated to Courtney’s House, a service center in Templeton for young adults with developmental disabilities.

Courtney’s House is dedicated to exposing and encouraging clients in areas of vocational, life and social skills. For nearly the past year, the house has also been home to a breakfast and lunch cafe where Courtney’s House clients work right alongside restaurant staff to help run the operation.

Though pre-registration for the TRYathlon ended on April 21, there are still open spots for participants and plenty of time left to register. Head to the Kennedy Club Fitness website to download a registration form or call (805) 466-6775 for more information.

Last year, the event drew 30 participants and 40 volunteers. Jamie said volunteers were so moved by the experienced they’ve all committed to returning. But with organizers hoping to grow to 50 participants, there is always a need for more volunteers.

The sponsorship from CoastHills was provided on behalf of the Credit Union’s Community Action Committee.

Each month, a group of employee volunteers meet to review sponsorship requests from community nonprofits. The group is able to award $30,000 per year, an amount endowed through CoastHills member donations.

If you know of a local cause looking for funding, please visit our Community Action Sponsorship page and request a donation.

As for the TRYathlon, it could be the only event of its kind in the country, and Jamie hopes it could catch on beyond Northern San Luis Obispo County and become a national movement.

The spirit of the event is built on spreading the notion that everyone has the ability to succeed.

“I really have anxiety about anybody falling through the cracks,” Jamie said. “I think we are people that were meant to move and giving people the opportunity is just a reward I can’t even begin to articulate.”

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