NorCal Kids Triathlon in Orinda promotes participation, fun
By Lou Fancher
Eleven-year-old Emma Cramer traveled from her home in Brentwood to Miramonte High School in Orinda to get wet, then ride and run like the wind.
Two months after enduring two years of chemotherapy pills, I.V.'s and lumbar spinal injections, steroid treatments, frequent hospital visits and losing her hair while conquering childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she came Aug. 27, to the NorCal Kids Triathlon to compete in a life-affirming race she'd already won.
Having breakfasted on eggs and sausages, the Bristol Middle School student predicted she would feel "tired and happy" after completing the 200-yard swim, 2.25-mile bike ride and 1.5-mile run.
Few of the more than 300 kids ages 4-14 participating in the event produced by the Orinda Community Foundation had such dramatic back stories. But the annual fundraiser staged its own kind of theater, with hundreds of parents drilling the 59 volunteers on facts about the course, onlookers cheering swimmers exiting the pool, and anxious kids everywhere adjusting swim caps, fiddling with bikes or prepping shoelaces.
"There are a lot of moving parts," said Alan Coe, event co-chair with Richard Stanaro. "The primary purpose of the triathlon is to provide a community service, but all that matters on race day is that the kids have a safe, happy experience."
Foundation president and former Orinda Mayor Sue Severson said that launching OCF in 2010 was an effort aimed at filling Orinda's funding gap after budget cuts during the recession all but eliminated the city's annual community support.
"Orinda traditionally gave a $20,000 gift each year for community events, but that contribution was cut due to necessary funding reductions. We didn't want to lose the events, like the Fourth of July parade, so we started our Tri4Health efforts, designed not to overlap existing nonprofit activities."
In the foundation's first year, more than $30,000 was raised.
"We realized that we could do more than the city," said Severson, "so we kept on going. All the money we raise goes right back into the community."
Corporate and business sponsorships are the primary source of revenue from the triathlon, not the $45 registration fee, according to Coe. Severson said that OCF in 2016 gave out approximately $40,000 in grants with revenue from 2015 fundraising events and campaigns.
"There's always more need than there is money, but this community is generous," she said.
Generosity arrived also from Victoria Carter, who this year organized the volunteers arriving from Santa Maria Church Knights of Columbus, Orinda Women's Club, Orinda Aquatics, Lamorinda area Rotary clubs, and more.
"The entire Miramonte track team showed up before 7 a.m. and were incredible," said Carter. "They were hauling equipment, they're out on the course. I was getting worried, but in the end, it all came together."
Carter has lived in Orinda for 20 years, and recalled being on the swim team for Springbrook Pool in Lafayette, years ago.
"I welcome the chance to give kids the same opportunities I had to be physically active," she said. "I might not do this job next year, but I'll be back to volunteer, it's terrific fun."
Serena Siow, 15, a member of the Orinda Aquatics and the Miramonte swim team, said her primary responsibilities as a volunteer were to cheer the kids on and "convince them to get in the pool."
She'd never participated in a triathlon, but knew from experience that jumping into cool water first thing in the morning can be intimidating.
"It's the hardest part, because the rest of the triathlon isn't so cold and they're doing what they do most often; running around and riding bikes."
For Emma, who plays water polo and, according to her mother, Erika Cramer, is "strong" and "never complains a lot," the pool wasn't an imposing challenge. Even the bike ride, after a long period of time without riding, wasn't too scary. And running, she predicted, was going to be a snap.
With a last-minute tug on her swim cap and a promise to afterward say, "Good job," to her friends completing the course with her, Emma marched off to compete, already a winner.