Bethany Beach Triathlon

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As the bikes roll down Atlantic Avenue on a rainy September morning, the quaint sleepy town of Bethany feels alive. Bike wheels clicking in harmony as racers join the processional march towards check-in. Hurricane Florence unleashed her wrath on the eastern seaboard, generating some of the roughest conditions in recent memory. Lifeguards line the beach ready at their posts as they stare unblinkingly into to the turbulent sea. The intensity of the morning coupled with the sting of the rain on your face makes us feel more like worriers than athletes.

The fire chief stands atop the bandstand, and delivers an emotional soliloquy of remembrance for his fallen brothers, reminding us all how lucky we are to be there. The crowd stands silently in unison, radiating a strength and energy that mirrors the passion and willpower that we, as a nation, displayed when we came together in unity to stand against tyranny and terrorism after the devastating attacks on September 11th.

On September 11th 2001 the Emergency Medical teams in New York (FDNY & NYPD) lost 412 members of the force. These men and women were the first on scene and helped save thousands of lives.

The Bethany Beach First Responders triathlon started in the fall of 2012 and became an annual event attracting thousands of athletes, donors, and supporters alike. What started as a local triathlon is now a full weekend of multiple events, and has garnered national attention attracting crowds and sponsors from hundreds of miles away. Although the spirit of the event was inspired by the actions of those who lost their lives on September 11th, the donations are raised for the local first responder teams (EMT/fire/police). These teams are the unsung heroes during times of crisis and need. They are an integral part of our communities and are often largely dependent on a significant amount of volunteer work. This past year 1050 contestants participated in the event, the largest in their 7 years of existence, generating over $20,000 in donations.

(Left) Willie Conaghan — Co-founder of Change Donations (Right) John Wack — O.G.R.E.S (Old Guys Running Expeditionary Society)

(Left) Willie Conaghan — Co-founder of Change Donations (Right) John Wack — O.G.R.E.S (Old Guys Running Expeditionary Society)

This race is not only a fantastic source of fundraising, but it also gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to give back to those who sacrifice so much for us. The camaraderie and spirit alive at this event is palpable. The positivity and support displayed here takes you back in time and makes new acquaintances feel like old friends. The finances generated from the race go primarily towards operations. Things like gear, equipment for the trucks, first aid kits, and other small items that medical teams are always in dire need of. As Fire Chief, Brian Martin, mentioned in his closing remarks, this race is an incredible way for the community to support the “less sexy” but equally as important side of our first responder teams. It’s a fun event that brings the whole community closer together and livens the spirit of the town.

Events like these make community feel more like an emotion than a categorical descriptor. It shows us the power of a positive spirit and reminds us of the true meaning of sacrifice. It’s events like these that motivate us to take action and inspire positive change in our communities.