Why I Race2Raise: Heidi O’Neil
Race2Raise team member Heidi O’Neil shares her personal connection to Dare2tri’s mission. Her first charity race for Dare2tri came in 2017 when she ran the Chicago Marathon. In 2020, she plans on running the New York City Marathon.
When Dare2tri came into my son Jack’s life, I wasn’t actually there because I was at home, crying. I had been secretly crying for months, but on that day I couldn’t keep my crying secret any longer. At that time, Jack was 10-years-old and 5 months post-amputation of his left leg above the knee. His recovery had been a series of setback after setback and he was struggling, both physically and emotionally. When my husband told me he was taking Jack to a clinic for disabled triathletes, I laughed (or cried?!?!). I remember saying, “He can’t walk from the car to the front door of the grocery store and you think he can do a triathlon?” Jon replied, “No, I don’t think he can do a triathlon, but I would like for him to meet someone who can.”
They returned that evening and Jack had a fire in his eyes. They told me they had met the triathlon world champion, Melissa Stockwell. She had told Jack he was going to be a champion someday and he chose to believe her. Jon said that Melissa and her fellow Dare2tri co-founders saw Jack’s struggles and wanted to help him. I was very doubtful because in the previous months many people had offered to help, but nobody ever came through on their offer. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I woke up to two emails, one from Melissa and the other from Dare2tri Executive Director Keri Serota. The next few weeks were a whirlwind of appointments with a new prosthetist, getting a running blade, attending a kids’ triathlon camp, and Jack’s first triathlon finish line! That first finish line has turned into many inspiring and triumphant finish lines for Jack.
I will not say that Dare2tri just changed Jack’s life. With tears in my eyes, I say that Dare2tri SAVED Jack’s life. Jack O’Neil is who he is because of the coaches and leadership of the Dare2tri paratriathlon team. They spoke to his heart on that first day and have continued to shape, mentor, and coach him into the athlete and incredible human being that he is. Because of Dare2tri, I no longer hide in my closet and cry tears of heartache. (Although, I have been known to shed some serious tears of joy as I watch my son pursue his dream of inspiring others while rocking triathlon finish lines.)
I am so proud that I have the opportunity to run for Dare2tri’s Race2Raise Team. How fitting that I am being coached by Melissa Stockwell, who has a knack for showing people their own potential and encouraging others to dream big. I am asking for your support. All of your donations will go to Dare2tri and benefit disabled athletes as they pursue the sport of triathlon and personally develop as athletes and human beings. As disabled athletes pursue the triathlon finish line, they soon discover that the courage of making it to the start line is equally as important as the triumph of crossing the finish line. The process of start line to finish line brings on feelings of self-worth, confidence, pride, and emotional healing. Moms like me get to witness moments of joy that contribute to our healing as well. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to thank the life-changers (and savers!) at Dare2tri.