The SoCal wildfires claimed another victim this past weekend--the San Diego Triathlon Challenge. The half-Iron distance race was canceled mainly due to the poor air quality that has lingered in the San Diego area since the recent fires burned throughout the county. The race organizers were also hesitant to use city facilities, including police and emergency personnel, so soon after they were pushed to their limit while fighting the fires.
The SDTC is the main fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which benefits physically challenged athletes with equipment, coaching and race expenses. While volunteering for it last year I was struck with how much the idea of supporting the cause was interwoven into the fabric of the race. The challenged athletes competing were continuous sources of inspiration for fans, race volunteers and athletes.
Often, races will support a cause or organization, but these beneficiaries sometimes seem secondary to the competition. Unlike walks for breast cancer or the March of Dimes, most long-distance races tend to be focused on the actual race rather than the people it's trying to help. The SDTC was as much about supporting the Challenged Athletes Foundation as it was about providing a great venue for a half-Ironman.
The organization itself experienced a significant setback about a month ago when a fire burned a good amount of race-day equipment at the CAF warehouse and offices. It was a huge blow to the race organizers, but with the help of willing volunteers and donors, they were set to hold the 2007 edition. Until the wildfires.
Canceled races mean dashed hopes and unfulfilled seasons for many. They also hurt the goals of fundraising organizations that rely heavily on being present in people’s minds when they think about where to donate time and money. Here’s hoping 2008 will be a great bounce-back year for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the many remarkable athletes it benefits.