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Care2Tri: Inclusion and Acceptance of Differently Abled Athletes

If you participated in the 2014 Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, you may have noticed some special teams of athletes from the nonprofit organization Care2Tri taking on the challenge of the race. Founded in 2009, Care2Tri is dedicated to making it possible for differently-abled people to experience the challenge, the thrill, and the joy of participating in triathlons and similar events by helping them compete. The mission of the organization is to “create a sense of equality and help steer the views of mainstream society to one of acceptance and inclusion,” one race at a time. 
We caught up with Ryan Flynn, one of the founders and leaders of the Care2Tri Chicago chapter, after the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon and asked him about his organization.


Focal Flame Photography: What was your motivation in starting a Care2Tri chapter?
Flynn: I have been racing in triathlons for 5 years and absolutely love the sport and competition, yet I’ve always wanted to do something more to share the experience with other people. I saw coverage of the Florida Rev 3 triathlon where Care2Tri was highlighted.   I was very moved and spoke with founder Greg Simony about starting a chapter, which along with Carrie Wisniewski we did in September 2013.

A Care2Tri team prepares to head out for the swim leg of the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon.  © 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Clint Thayer

A Care2Tri team prepares to head out for the swim leg of the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon. 
© 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Clint Thayer

FFP: Adaptive vans, equipment, and traveling to races is expensive. How is Care2 Tri supported?
Flynn: We are fortunate to have some corporate sponsors in the form of product, but we rely solely on local businesses, friends, family, and fellow triathletes for funding.  We held fundraisers throughout the winter, used the funds to purchase equipment and insurance, and had our first race in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin in the spring of 2014.  That was really a big moment for the Chicago Chapter!  And you can see it in the photos Focal Flame took!

The swim is a team effort, with Care2Tri members taking turns pulling an inflatable vessel carrying another member.  © 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Austin Cope

The swim is a team effort, with Care2Tri members taking turns pulling an inflatable vessel carrying another member. 
© 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Austin Cope

FFP: How many races have you run and how many people with disabilities have you served so far?
Flynn: I have completed 2 races with Care2Tri, pulling 3 athletes with disabilities; we have at least 3 more on the schedule for 2014. We plan to participate in the same 5 races next year and add more. Currently, we are trying to organize racing 50 triathlons in all 50 states in 50 consecutive days, pulling 3 disabled participants in each state.


FFP: How has starting this chapter of Care2 Tri affected you personally and/or professionally? 
Flynn: It certainly has been a challenge, but the joy and pride our participants experience during the races makes all the hard work worth it! As long as I am able, I will continue to make these opportunities available.

A bike trailer converts to a running cart, helping the Care2Tri team achieve their goal. The Chicago chapter raised funds for the Wike cart for use in training and competition.  © 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit; Jacob Ennis

A bike trailer converts to a running cart, helping the Care2Tri team achieve their goal. The Chicago chapter raised funds for the Wike cart for use in training and competition. 
© 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit; Jacob Ennis

FFP: What impact has your organization had on the community? 
Flynn: In the short time that we have been participating in races, we have had a lot of triathletes and spectators come to us and want to get involved and race with us.  Just through modeling the right approach, others want to get on board. 

FFP: Does your organization partner with support groups to either connect with people with disabilities, raise funds, or provide support? 
Flynn: We partner with the Anixter Center, United Cerebral Palsy, Disabled Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and the YMCA, encouraging them to promote our organization and allow us to speak at health and fitness engagements.  We have worked with people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, Rett syndrome, brain injuries, Down syndrome, and people who are blind, quadriplegic, or amputees. If someone has the desire, we will find a way for them to participate in any race.

FFP: If someone wishes to be a part of Chicago Care2Tri chapter, whom should they contact? 
Flynn: We welcome race guides and volunteers for race day, as well as help with fundraising, marketing, and race organization. Contact:  RFlynnCare2Tri@gmail.com   

Focal Flame Photography is honored to capture moments such as the amazing teamwork of Care2Tri members during our service as the official event photographers for the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon. Thanks and congratulations to the entire triathlete community for your efforts in making this sport accessible to differently abled athletes. 

A jubilant celebration at the finish line for a Care2Tri competitor.  © 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Clint Thayer

A jubilant celebration at the finish line for a Care2Tri competitor. 
© 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Clint Thayer

- by Deborah Proctor