by Cynthia Price
Of course the Tri del Sol Triathlon is a physical challenge, but it has an added dimension that differentiates it from other athletic events.
In addition to competitive running, swimming, and bicycling, many participants in the Tri del Sol are “angels,” who work with myTEAM TRIUMPH (MTT) West Michigan Chapter, owner/operator of the race, to help people with disabilities enjoy the thrill of success.
Teams of “angels” are captained by a person who faces physical challenges and would normally be unable to participate in a competition. MTT?supplies special equipment, such as carts, that allow members of the team to push or pull the captain along to the finish line.
Presenting sponsor of the July 21 Tri del Sol, held along Barlow Lake at Camp Manitou-Lin in Middleville, is the law firm Foster Swift.
According to a released statement, “Foster Swift identifies with myTEAM TRIUMPH’s mission of nurturing lasting relationships, promoting teamwork and increasing community involvement, such as helping MTT acquire a trailer to store and transport their equipment.”
As Foster Swift’s Director of Marketing and Recruitment Kimberly Hafley tells it, Foster Swift has been involved with MTT for over 10 years. Foster Swift attorney Larry Korolewicz, an insurance lawyer and commercial litigator, served with MTT co-founder Terence Reuben on a board, and they connected over sponsorship of MTT at the Grand Rapids Marathon. In addition to supplying the trailer mentioned above and a VIP tent/breakfast at the GR Marathon for the captains and angels (and their families), Foster Swift has been the Tri del Sol title sponsor for the past three years.
Foster Swift supports the community in a variety of ways, including being the title sponsor for the Grand Rapids Marathon’s Half Marathon and for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon/10K/5K; and supporting Alternatives in Motion, which has for 26 years “enhance[d] independence through access to mobility equipment.”
Camp Manitou-Lin is a YMCA camp, and it offers a beautiful backdrop for the Tri del Sol competition, so the “boutique” event has become very popular. In addition to MTT captain/angel participation, which takes place at a wide variety of races in the area, the tri-sport proceeds go to MTT to help it fulfill its own mission “to enhance the health and well being of individuals with disabilities by fostering lasting, authentic relationships through the teamwork environment of endurance athletics.”
The angels guiding their captains to success are joined by a number of individual runners who just want to challenge themselves, and raise funds for MTT.
One of those this year was Foster Swift attorney Mindi Johnson, who was profiled in the Grand Rapids Legal News last year when she was one of the area attorneys named to the Women in the Law list by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
It was Johnson’s first triathlon, though she liked it so well that she has since participated in another. The employee benefits and health care law attorney – who co-leads the firm’s largest practice group, Business and Tax – comments, “It was really fun, but it was really hard! I didn’t appreciate just how tired I would be. Each of the sports involves a completely different set of muscles and lung capacity.”
Johnson began running about ten years ago after the birth of her first son, starting with 5Ks and moving up to half marathons. Her decision to challenge herself with a triathlon met with success: she was fifth in her age group and 64th overall, but “just finishing was a victory for me.” In her second, the Millennium Triathlon, she came in third place in her age group, which merited a “little award.”
She notes that the weather at the Tri del Sol made things tougher. “It was raining and storming that morning, so they delayed the start by an hour and a half,” she says. “They almost called the race, but it’s good they didn’t since the weather eventually cleared up.”
Johnson, a former board member for Girls on the Run of Kent and Muskegon Counties, says that she got a lot out of training for the triathlon, which she did with a friend. “I really enjoyed the training. It wasn’t just running every day. I was a swimmer back in high school so I felt fairly confident there, but I had to train for the biking. The variety helped make it interesting and kept things fresh.”
Former Foster Swift attorney Nichole Derks also participated, along with Terri Sobolewski, the wife of the lawyer who initiated the ongoing relationship with MTT, Larry Korolewicz.
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