It sounds like an impossible event to organize: 900 children, from as young as three years of age up to 14, will be running, biking and swimming in what may be the largest single day kids’ triathlon in the country. And yet, that’s exactly what is happening this weekend in Elmira.
This year marks the tenth anniversary for the annual fundraising event, which since its start has grown to be immensely popular amongst parents and kids alike. Nine-hundred participants might seem like a lot – and it is – but the demand for the non-competitive triathlon has exploded beyond what the organization can accommodate at the Elmira location.
“It really has become the largest kids’ triathlon certainly in Canada,” said Paul Helsby, co-founder and race director for the Trigator for Kids. “There’s not that many that would have a single-day race of 900 kids, even in North America. It’s a very unusual success.”
The Trigator has become so popular, parents have to be ready to snatch up tickets right when they become available – in February. Despite the long gap between the time of registration and the event itself, tickets sell out in minutes of them being on offer. That people are already thinking about the triathlon in the middle of winter is perhaps an indicator of its impact.
“We had 723 kids register in 16 minutes this year,” said Helsby. “And then the balance, 875, was sold out within 90 minutes, which is always the case.”
Helsby attributes the popularity of the event to a number of factors, including its $30 price tag. The Trigator also goes out of its way to sponsors participants unable to afford the fee to run for free. In that same spirit of inclusion, the event strives to be accessible to kids with special needs.
“I think for the most part, it’s really more about the fact that it gives kids a chance to participate in something new. It’s something all kids can do.
“We really try to make it just fun. We’re not about who wins, we don’t have podiums. If you come and you race, and you do your best, you’ll get a medal, you’ll get a shirt, you’ll get a hat. You’ll get a popsicle and some pizza. So we really have always been about making it accessible and fun, as opposed to being a competitive sport. And it really becomes a family event,” he said.
The event also shares it’s weekend with Father’s Day, which Helsby notes has had a positive benefit on the triathlon.
“So we have lots of people that have extended families that are all coming into town, building a family weekend around Trigator. It’s quite cool actually. We have many families that arrive from all over the place. So it’s become quite a significant family event,” he added.
With 900 kids to manage and guide through the different stages of the triathlon, it takes a small army of some 300 volunteers to make the event run smoothly.
“The volunteers are phenomenal. We really make it look like a world-class event, so that really attracts people. And kids feel safe, [there’s] lots of great volunteers cheering them on; I think they enjoy that experience. And then they finish on a track with a cheering crowd of people cheering them on. It’s a good setup.”
The Trigator serves as a fundraiser for local charities, with a focus on supporting children’s access to sports, and so found a good fit with the Canadian Tire Jumpstart charity, which is its chief beneficiary.
Over the past decade, the Trigator has raised $285,000 for local charities; but that amount is then practically doubled by the support of Canadian Tire.
“That’s really the amount we’ve raised since inception, so ten years,” said Helsby. “And then that’s matched by the Canadian Tire dealer. So our contribution to Jump Start is about $600,000 over the last ten years.”
Expect the Woolwich Memorial Centre to be packed to the rafters this Saturday as from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., hundreds of kids will be getting to race for their very own photo finish.