“In the race of life that we are all in, it is vital that we keep our eyes on the prize (2 Timothy 4 and 1 Corinthians 9). The prize for Jesus in His race was you, me, and to see every precious soul in heaven (Hebrews 12:1-3),” says Wyatt Allen. Photo Credit: Skip Russel & Danielle Haub
“This created an opportunity to reach the whole community,” says the triathlon lead organizer Jenni Allen. “When we go back to the community, they will remember us as the church that hosted a triathlon for the community and are open to other things.”
Knowing that parents are always looking for ways to enroll their children in programs to enhance their development, the church sponsored event targeted children between the ages of 6 and 15 years old, along with their families.
Following the event that attracted 43 community youth, the church hosted an appreciation Sabbath and several families testified to the impact of the program. Kristen, a mother of three, stood up during the Sabbath service and said, "It was the best program my children have ever attended!"
The idea to host the race was sparked when Jenni heard an AudioVerse presentation from Michigan Conference pastor E.J. Wolf discussing the triathlon he hosted and the opening it provided to mingling with the community. Jenni was intrigued and decided to give it a spin. She learned a lot along the way, including that hosting a youth triathlon was no easy task, but was well worth the effort.
First, there was finding sponsors for the kids. Those generous donations would pay for the bikes, shirts, medals, banners, etc. This connected the church with business owners. Then came the task of spreading the word about the event. With $220 of Facebook advertising, the number of race-day participants the organizers could accommodate was reached. The church couldn't host more than a certain number of children because of the YMCA pool limits. “It was hard turning families away who really wanted to join in the summer fun,” says Jenni.
With the sponsors, children, venues for the event, and permission from the city to close a road down, it was time to train.
Over 40 children met for seven weeks to practice their swimming, biking and running skills. The children were separated into three divisions. Ages 6-8, ages 9-11, and ages 12-15. Each division trained together and had different athletic expectations. It was emphasized that the race they were preparing for was not against others but against their own selves. Thus, the kids were to try to beat the prior week's records. It wasn't about competition, but about health and fun. Between their weekly Sunday practices, each child was to also keep a log and practice the three legs of the race at home.
But before the physical came the mental and spiritual training. The church’s pastor, Wyatt Allen, offered a short message on God's natural remedies using the Weimar NEWSTART acronym and its spiritual lessons. While the children were sweating, the parents and many of the volunteers were connecting and collectively rooting the children on.
To qualify for the free bike required faithful attendance, keeping a home training log and the expectation of completing the race. When it was time to pick up their free bikes at Walmart a few days before the big event, it was a delightful scene. “Oh, to see the joy and smiles on their faces,” says Wyatt. “They earned it. Their summer of hard work and discipline was paying off!”
Race day was a buzz of activity, with much of the church arriving early to set everything up. Two news crews showed up and carried the story on their evening programs. Onlookers marveled to see so many young people pushing themselves in 90-degree-plus weather. Others asked on the spot how to get their kids involved next year. Volunteer coaches beamed as they saw their triathletes pushing themselves harder than they've seen before. Parents, grandparents, friends, and many church members were lining the track as their young person raced towards the finish line. Some were crying, some smiling, some were shouting for victory as they crossed the finish line!
Wyatt said that the 2021 New Albany Youth Triathlon event was a success if it’s measured by the friendships and meaningful connections the church made with the community. But he noted that it’s important to remember: “In the race of life that we are all in, it is vital that we keep our eyes on the prize (2 Timothy 4 and 1 Corinthians 9). The prize for Jesus in His race was you, me, and to see every precious soul in heaven (Hebrews 12:1-3).”
Lake Union Herald staff