April 10

Kelly Steele
Jul 23, 2014 - 6:02 PM EDT
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2014 - 8:54 AM EDT

For the past 25 years Windsor’s John McKibbon has been dedicating his time and energy to promote the Tecumseh triathlon.

He jokes that the reason he’s still involved is that no one else wants to take over the reigns. But you can tell from his smile the real reason is his love of the sport.

“My kids and even my wife have been doing triathlons for years,” McKibbon said. “It’s our lifestyle, it’s just something we’ve done for most of our lives.”

For the past nine years, McKibbon has organized The Kids for Hospice triathlon camp. The three-day camp gives kids from age to 13 the chance to try out the three disciplines — swimming, cycling and running — which make up a triathlon. This year the camp, which started on Wednesday and runs until Friday at LaCasse Park, attracted close to 48 kids. The money raised goes to support Hospice of Windsor.

“It’s a great chance to expose kids to the basic level of triathlons,” McKibbon said. “It’s also a chance to give some of them a glimpse into the athlete culture which they don’t get at school. For the kids’ triathlon itself there is no minimum age, they just have to be able to ride a bike.”

The kids at the camp all come from different athletic backgrounds, although the majority are swimmers. The triathlon distances are adjusted by age groups.

“What’s great about triathlons is any child can do it,” he said. “All they need is a bike, a pair of shoes and a pair of goggles.”

Kids for Hospice (formerly Kids of Steel) holds a fond place in my heart, as my two girls attended the camps and participated in the kids triathlon. I still remember loading up their bikes and heading to Sandpoint Beach for the race. Maddie, 3, had training wheels on her bike and Mikayla, 5, had pretty pink streamers on her handle bars and a pink basket on the front. They looked like serious triathletes.

It really was an amazing day. I remember holding Maddie’s hand as we ran through the knee-deep water for the swim portion. We came out of the water and she made her way to her bike.

At the same time, my oldest was getting ready to go into the water. Of course there were some tears; race day always seems to bring that out. But when she came out of the water the tears were replaced by a huge smile. She ran, grabbed her helmet and took off on her pink bike.

I sprinted at top speed over to the transition area where my youngest was getting off her bike and starting the run portion of the event. Of course, like a serious triathlete she didn’t want to waste time taking off her helmet. She ran toward the finish line and in crossing put her arms up in the air in celebration.

I gave her a huge hug,  scooped her up and ran back out to watch my oldest. As I started to watch Mikayla run, the tears started to stream down my face, I was so proud.

It was a great day and even though I looked like a lunatic mom sprinting all around the course trying to get a glimpse of my girls,  it left me with amazing memories of a great event.

It’s for that reason when McKibbon asks me to come out and coach some of the new young triathletes, I jump at the chance. It was a great opportunity for my girls and one they wouldn’t have had without the camp.

On Wednesday at the camp, I couldn’t help but smile as I was coaching runners along with Sean Ryan, who is one of the area’s respected triathletes. He was telling some of the kids that his five-year-old daughter will be participating in the August triathlon. I’m sure Sean will have his running shoes on that day and running alongside his daughter and grinning ear to ear when she crosses the finish line. Heck, the tough triathlete may even shed a proud tear. Trust me, it feels great to watch your children participate in a sport you love.

The Tecumseh Triathlon weekend takes place on August 9 and 10. For more information check tecumsehtriathlon.com

ksteele@windsorstar.com or on Twitter @winstarkelly

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tags: hospice, steele, kids, triathlon, camp