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The benefits of youth sports are tremendous: they build comradery, establish healthy lifestyles, and boost a child’s overall self-esteem. Some children never have the opportunity to participate in organized activity, and that is exactly why the USA Triathlon Foundation stepped in to support Pillars For Promise in 2017. With the mission of opening pathways to triathlon to those whom it might not otherwise be possible, the Foundation provided adequate funding for the low-income youth of the Pillars For Promise organization to obtain helmets, bicycles, and multisport race entries.

Founded by Rhea Kessler in 2009, Pillars For Promise is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote youth development by introducing young athletes to the multisport lifestyle and preparing them for local events. Through a partnership with the USA Triathlon Foundation in 2017, underprivileged children in two Pensacola, Florida Title I Schools were granted the opportunity of participating in triathlon training programs and competing in nearby races. This not only encouraged healthy living for the children, but also developed strong work ethics and positive attitudes.

Equipment such as high-quality bicycles, helmets, transition racks, race entries, and team jerseys were provided to about 50 young athletes, most of whom had never participated in individual or team sports before. The message “Dream It. Believe It. Achieve It.” was printed on the back of every child’s shirt, solidifying the mission of the Pillars For Promise Organization.

In addition to these gear pieces, one of the most important aspects of the Pillars For Promise organization in 2017 was the Gulf Coast Triathlon Initiative, a local elite age group squad focused on increasing monetary donations and volunteer hours for the development of youth multisport. The support of the Gulf Coast Triathlon Team and the Women’s Gulf Coast Triathlon Team added in the necessary labor force and fundraising efforts for Pillars For Promise to succeed and for the children to achieve their dreams.

This year, the young athletes competed in the Maritime de Luna Duathlon as well as the Sea Turtle Triathlon, both of which are on the Pillars For Promise schedule in 2018. The organization is hoping to extend its program into an additional school next year, which will instill confidence, increase fitness, and improve the lives of even more children in the Pensacola area.