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Youth sports

Spring Hill Kiwanis organizer seeks to inspire hospitalized kids through triathlon

SPRING HILL

The brainchild of Kiwanis Club member Scott Kelczewski, the SuperKids Triathlon was a success the likes of which could not have been expected.

It started eight months ago as Kelczewski listened to the radio. While he was driving down the road, former Major League Baseball player Jeff Conine was on, talking about how he was training for an Ironman triathlon in Hawaii.

Kelczewski, an athletic 32-year-old, entertained the idea of training for a triathlon himself. While researching local triathlons, he realized there weren't any opportunities available for kids in the area.

"I got the idea that this might be something good for the kids to do," Kelczewski said. "Triathlon events are activities that kids already do during the summer — riding bikes, swimming and running."

He proposed the idea to the J.D. Floyd K-8 Key Club, a Kiwanis-sponsored youth community service organization. With a slide presentation, he showed students what a triathlon was and asked who would be interested. Almost every hand was raised by the end of the meeting.

About six months ago, he began to formulate the plan of how to benefit the community with such an event.

Hospitals have inpatient children at their facilities, and small things help brighten their day. Starting with a postcard contest in the Hernando County schools, the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill decided to get the wheels in motion for the SuperKids Triathlon to benefit these hospitalized children.

The postcard contest, for which Kiwanis received more than 2,000 entries, would be used to choose 20 winners to pass out to the children in the hospitals who would be represented by young athletes who eventually would take part in the triathlon.

Next, Kelczewski needed a facility where the triathlon could be held. Weeki Wachee State Park was more than cooperative. The heads of the park allowed the SuperKids Triathlon to be held there free of cost.

Mark Barry, the executive director of the Arc Nature Coast, was also a big help to Kelczewski. A veteran of triathlons, Barry helped draw up the course.

Going into last week, there were 25 registrants signed up for the Saturday morning event. However, the number ballooned leading up to the triathlon. By start time, 72 had signed up and 57 ended up racing. Ages 5 to 16, every youth received a ribbon.

"When this all began, I had the attitude of, 'Let's see if we can make it happen,' " Kelczewski said. "It turned out very well. We had 20 volunteers from the local Kiwanis chapter."

The focus for Kelczewski now turns to the young patients who will receive the support of these children who ran the race they couldn't. While names can't be released because of privacy regulations, competitors knew the symbolism of why they were running this race.

Kelczewski's goal was to reach 1,000 hospitalized children with this benefit. There was no way that could happen with only North Suncoast medical centers, so the search has expanded. Kelczewski is in talks with the following facilities: Oak Hill Hospital (Brooksville), University Community Hospital (Tampa), St. Joseph's Hospital (Tampa), Shands Hospital (Gainesville), All Children's Hospital (St. Petersburg), Shriners Hospital for Children (Tampa), Citrus Memorial Hospital (Inverness) and Seven Rivers Community Hospital (Crystal River).

"I'm going to be meeting with the Kiwanis board of directors (this week)," Kelczewski said. "If it was up to me, I'd love to do it all over again next year."

Submit feedback, story ideas to community sports@tampabay.com.

Fast facts

SuperKids Triathlon

Sponsored By the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill

Where: Weeki Wachee State Park and Buccaneer Bay, Weeki Wachee

Overview: 57 participated in the swimming, biking and running to benefit hospitalized youths around the Suncoast.

Spring Hill Kiwanis organizer seeks to inspire hospitalized kids through triathlon 07/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 6, 2009 5:53pm]
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