Local Triathlon Team Turns Non-Profit and Gives Back to Community
by Reed Walters
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Memphis Thunder Racing is a team of approximately 100 triathletes that was started in 2003 to promote a healthy lifestyle, build friendships, and increase participation in triathlons and multisport events throughout the Mid-South. The Thunder members actively train for and participate in triathlons and duathlons, as well as, individual events such as swimming, biking, running, adventure racing and mountain biking. The team provides numerous training events in each discipline and social gatherings for their members to meet outside of the training/racing environment.
As an official USA Triathlon club, Thunder has participated in the Southeast Regional Club Series (SERCS) since its inception, and has prevailed as the SERCS Champion for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008! Although the team has many strong competitors that place overall or among their respective age group, it is the active participation by all their members that has helped them to achieve this goal year after year.
At the end of 2007, Memphis Thunder Racing, under the guidance of its president, Lesley Brainard, the Aquatic Director at Collierville's Prairie Life Fitness Center, applied for and received registration as a 501c-3 not-for-profit organization in order to accept tax deductible donations that could be used to support local charities. Early in 2008, Thunder formed a committee called "Thunder Cares" chaired by local neurosurgeon and aspiring triathlete, Dr. Allen Sills, to organize and focus the team's efforts in supporting local causes. Already in 2008, Thunder has sponsored four events to help support the local community.
First, on May 4th, led by long-time member and local chef, Doug Ruddle, Thunder sponsored an event called "Cycle for Safety" which was organized to educate cyclists and the general public on bike safety rules and laws affecting motorists and cyclists. The event was also a form of memorial remembering Cory Horton, one of the team's founding members that was killed in a tragic cycling accident. The event included a 34 mile bike ride, a 52 mile bike ride to Cory's memorial site, and also, a "fun ride" for families with kids on the campus of St. George's.
Later in May, the Thunder members leveraged their participation in the Memphis in May Triathlon to raise money for the Church Health Center, the largest faith-based clinic in the area providing quality, affordable healthcare for working, uninsured people and their families. Thunder solicited funds for the Church Health Center by swimming nearly 1 mile, cycling over 24 miles, and running 6.2 miles all back to back. The fund raising goal was to raise $2,500 which would pay for one full day (24 hours) of operations at the Church Health Center. Thunder significantly surpassed this goal and on July 16th presented the Church Health Center with a check for $5,653, which will also act as seed money to allow the Church Health Center to start a "spin" program designed to help parents and kids in the city of Memphis participate together in a healthy and safe workout as part of a strategy to help combat the epidemic of childhood obesity.
On Saturday, August 16, Memphis Thunder hosted a Field Day for the Memphis area Special Olympics. Over 50 Special Olympians and their caregivers participated in field games such as the 3 - legged race, water balloon toss, and the spoon relay. Kickball and soccer games were also held under a beautiful blue sky. A group tug-of-war and a mixed running relay rounded out a morning of fun and memories. A catered lunch was served as Thunder members and their families enjoyed time together with their new friends from Special Olympics.
On September 21st, Thunder sponsored its fourth annual "Kids Triathlon", which was organized to create a safe environment for children ages 7 to 14 to have fun and friendly competition in a miniature version of a triathlon (100-200 yard swim, 5-10km bike, and 1-2km run). The Kids Triathlon has grown into a fundraising opportunity for Thunder where they can raise money for a safer cycling community by donating proceeds from the event for "share the road" signage and education. Thunder is also seeking the support of the Town of Collierville for this effort. The event took place on the St. Georges School campus which was closed to traffic. The event was considered a huge success as they experienced record participation with approximately 225 kids.
Looking forward, Memphis Thunder is excited about the 2009 season and the opportunity to further its impact in the local community. With their bright orange, yellow and blue colored jerseys they are easy to spot in a race or on the street in one of their training rides or runs. So, instead of honking your horn at them to get out of your way, why not show your support for their very worth while efforts by yelling "Go Thunder!" instead? I know they will appreciate it.
Memphis Thunder Racing would not be able to sponsor these events and support local causes in the community without the generous donations it receives and the critical support from its team sponsors, which include Bike World, Bluff City Sports, Breakaway Athletics, Marx & Bensdorf Realtors: Jimmy Reed, Memphis Pool Supply Co., and WellWorx Sporting Clubs. If you have an interest in making a donation or learning more about becoming one of Thunder's team sponsors, please see their website at www.memphisthunderracing.com for more information.