For volunteers with the Shyann Kindness Project, the 2019 “Tri” race and toy drive will mark a milestone: Ten sprint triathlons that have helped to support donations of more than 115,000 books and countless toys, school supplies and gifts to more than 26,000 low-income, at-risk and medically fragile children.
“There were a number of other sprint triathlon events in Tucson over the years, and they have all gone away,” Glenn Rosati said about the 2019 “Tri” for Acts of Kindness Sprint Triathlon, Duathlon, 5K and Toy Drive.
“We have stayed the course and are still operating. Obviously we are proud that we have been able to do that for 10 years. More importantly, the net proceeds are significant because we use those to help fund the Shyann Kindness Project during the course of the year. This is our signature fundraiser.”
Rosati and his wife, Sandy, founded the nonprofit in 2006 to honor the memory of their daughter, Shyann, who was born with numerous medical complications and special needs.
Since then, the nonprofit has serviced the community through kindness gift-giving events at elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods, shelters, group homes, hospitals and clinics. Each gift is accompanied by a lesson on acceptance and anti-bullying and a message of kindness inspired by Shyann.
The organization also offers puppet shows emphasizing kindness at preschools as well as a program for middle school students that addresses bullying, cyberbullying and other issues impacting preteens.
All programs are staffed by volunteers and all kindness gift-giving events are free.
“We have never had any paid administrative staff, and this is a nonprofit race as opposed to a for-profit race. All the monies we make on the race go directly to helping kids in the Tucson area,” said Andy Kunsberg, project vice president and race director.
Kunsberg is also proud of the fact that the race, which is sanctioned by USA Triathlon, provides an excellent opportunity for both first-timers and more experienced triathletes, as well as for those who may consider themselves primarily bikers, runners and swimmers.
In fact, the event will offer a First-Timers Clinic at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at La Mariposa Resort. Interested participants who attend can ride through the route with the timing manager.
“We have an umpire for the race and it is very professionally run and organized. I think that many people may not understand that triathlons are made up of a swim, bike ride and a run. Since we are a sprint triathlon, we are a perfect venue for those new to ‘tris’ and even for those who do Ironmans or Olympic triathlons to work on their speed and physicality,” Kunsberg said.
The sprint distances — a 200-yard swim, 13.3-mile bike course and 3.1-mile run — proved to be the perfect introduction to triathlons for Dan Clemens 10 years ago.
“The ‘Tri’ For Kindness was my very first triathlon, and it taught me what to expect in each discipline and how to transition, particularly the importance of learning to bike for 12 miles and then get off your bike and run, which is a whole different experience than just running,” said Clemens, who has participated in every Shyann project sprint triathlon and has also run several full triathlons in the past decade.
Clemens, a chief strategy officer for Vantage West Credit Union, began running 13 years ago when a friend challenged him to a 5K. He considers the sprint triathlons a great opportunity for those who lack competitive swimming experience to get their feet wet as well as an ideal chance to cross-train.
“The swim is a short distance, so it is not as intimidating as longer distances. And if you are someone who runs all the time, it is easier on the body if you mix it up with swimming and biking; you can build up more endurance but you are not always pounding yourself on the pavement,” said Clemens, 51.
Apparently Clemens is not alone — many of those registered this year are his contemporaries.
“Historically, more than 40% of registrants were first-timers, and each year women in the 40 to 49 age bracket were the dominant group. This year the dominant group is trending to be the 50 to 60-plus age group, as of right now,” Glenn Rosati said.
Participants run the gamut, which is part of the appeal of the race, according to Clemens.
He said he has seen everyone, from first-timers riding beach cruisers to serious triathletes on very expensive, professional-grade bikes.
Ultimately, Clemens said the incentive for the participants to compete is transcended by the common cause and he commends Tucson athletes for their generosity.
“Any organization that focuses on providing underprivileged and medically fragile kids with backpacks, school supplies, books, toys and messages about kindness really goes a long way to helping these kids out and I think that is a factor for many people,” Clemens said. “Not only is this is a fantastically giving community, but Tucson is one of the best-kept secrets in the endurance world with beautiful trails and bike lanes and mountains surrounding us. The ‘Tri’ for Acts of Kindness highlights that.”