Photo courtesy of Pinky Swear Foundation
On August 1, more than 1,000 kids will dive into Lake Nokomis to swim, bike, and run in support of other kids fighting cancer.
The annual Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlon began in Minneapolis in 2004 as part of a pinky swear Twin Cities dad Steve Chepokas made with his nine-year-old son, Mitch. Mitch had bone cancer and wanted his dad to keep helping other kids with cancer. A few months after the promise was made, Mitch passed away. But the promise has been kept. The event now runs in 11 cities and is the largest fundraising kids’ triathlon series in the country, helping to raise more than $10 million for kids fighting cancer and their families.
The best part? It’s kids helping kids.
“It is open to kids of all athletic abilities,” says Brian Nelson, executive director of the Pinky Swear Foundation. “We have a lot of kids with bike baskets and streamers who want to make a difference in the lives of kids with cancer.”
Kids ages 6-18 will compete, swimming 100 or 200 yards, biking 3 or 6 miles, and running for one-half or 1 mile, depending on age group. For parents of participants, it’s a way to teach active compassion that also releases some of that boundless summer energy.
There’s no fundraising minimum, but there are prizes for reaching certain fundraising levels. At last glance, the top fundraising team has collected more than $17,500. Nelson has seen the event build young participants’ leadership and entrepreneurship abilities, as well as their sense of community service, especially when they get to meet an “All-Star”—a child with cancer whom their efforts have helped. “Being able to see the impact of their efforts directly on families is tremendous,” he says.