Smiles the size of the Kool-Aid Man appeared when six Marines showed up to motivate campers at the Achieve D.C. Children’s Triathlon July 30.
The Single Marine Program enthusiasts volunteered at the race to count laps and cheer on the pint-sized triathletes.
Dozens of children ages 9 to 14 from four summer camps in the Washington area swam, biked and ran in the triathlon this year. The event consisted of a 100 yard swim, five kilometer bike ride and a two kilometer run.
“In 2009, we were approached to volunteer for Achieve D.C. Children’s Triathlon,” said LauRae D. Upchurch, SMP coordinator for Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. “The Marines enjoyed it so much we decided it would be a good volunteer opportunity this year too.”
Volunteering makes everyone feel good, Upchurch added. The volunteers enjoy knowing they are helping someone, and the individuals who receive a helping hand know that someone cares about them.
“It was inspiring to watch the kids do it,” said Cpl. Sandra Baermann, a cross-country chaser for Headquarters Marine Corps and a Milwaukee, Wis., native. “It makes me want to run a triathlon myself.”
At the end of the triathlon, some of the volunteers decided to run the two kilometer race to encourage the kids. Baermann said she enjoyed running alongside the child she mentored throughout the day.
“It makes you feel good about yourself when you give back to the community,” Baermann said. “It is nice to know that there is a program out there keeping them off the street.”
The Achieve program helps children with swimming, biking, running, stretching and nutrition, said Molly Quinn, executive director of the Achieve headquarters in Washington. The free summer camp also gives children a chance to learn from experienced athletes and coaches.
Upchurch said it’s amazing that some of these children just learned to swim or ride a bike six weeks ago.
“To see the kids accomplish this goal is self-gratifying, it kind of motivates you to accomplish goals of your own,” she added.
Baermann said when she has another chance she is going to do more volunteer work, because it leaves her with a sense of accomplishment.
“It only takes one or two hours out of your day to help,” she said.