A Bully's Note Inspired This North Central Region Member to Empower Girls Through Triathlon

By Michelle Bandur | Dec. 05, 2018, 11:54 a.m. (ET)

I am a volunteer on the North Central Board and would like to share my story of empowering girls through triathlon.

I am a television reporter in Omaha, Nebraska, and received a horrible note from a viewer. The anonymous coward told me to use the enclosed dollar bill to fix my big fat nose and bags under my eyes.

That dollar has turned into thousands of dollars in donations for the free Ironhawk Juniors Tri Club. I co-founded the club with a local triathlon coach, Brad Hildebrandt, who wants to make the sport less intimidating and provide opportunities for those who normally wouldn’t be exposed to the sport or could not afford it.

U.S. Masters and Kona competitor Erin Sullivan joined the team early on, organizing all the swim practices. She recruited other coaches and masters swim team members to help 32 girls learn how to swim. She also honed the skills of another 26, who didn't have much time in the water before entering our program. 

I have been participating in triathlons for 14 years and it has changed my life! I love sharing the sport! I have completed six IRONMANS!

The Ironhawk Juniors Tri Club has girls, ages 8-14, from every part of town, socioeconomic background, race and ethnicity. The club provides free bikes, helmets, running shoes, goggles, swimsuits and swim caps. We've taught girls how to ride a bike, how to swim and how to run, and average about 200 girls at practice every Thursday. Almost 200 participated in the triathlon race, which was held on the College of Saint Mary's campus. 

We also are working on bigger and better plans for next year. We hope to double the amount of participation because our community has been so generous. 

USA Triathlon President Barry Siff is a big supporter; he even came to visit us with bags of running shoes! It’s incredible how the community has turned out for these girls!

More importantly, we teach these girls how to stand up to bullies, how to love themselves and each other! It’s so awesome! They wore T-shirts with positive messages and help each other! It's so heart-warming!

We at USA Triathlon love this inspiring story of empowerment and standing up to bullying! To follow more USA Triathlon North Central Region news and connect with fellow members, follow the North Central Region Facebook page

Watch Michelle Bandur's original TV report for her ABC station. 

This is the race day coverage of the Ironhawk Juniors Tri Club race.

To follow the Ironhawk Juniors Tri Club, visit the group's Facebook page