In Southington, it was a day of remembrance and unity in the community. It’s that passion that is behind the 8th annual Race for Chase.
The race is named after Chase Kowalski, who was 7 years old when he passed away in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nearly a decade later, his parents and community are continuing to honor his memory and it all came from a conversation Chase had with his mom at a young age.
"At six years old [he says], 'mama I want to do that thing where they swim and bike and they run,' and I said 'you’re crazy. They don’t do that for kids,' and he said 'here’s an iPad, Google it," said Rebecca Kowalski, Chase's mom.
"We wanted to give children that opportunity. He got such as self-esteem boost from becoming a triathlete that we decided that that would be our special way to honor him," she said.
The team said it’s a pretty adventurous course for kids. "They’ll start their swim, which is about 50 meters up to the bike course, which is around the pond, which is about 1.25 miles and then they hit racers challenge, which is about 1 mile run in the woods and then they come through the finish line," said Jim O’ Rourke, Board Member for Race for Chase.
After his passing, the CMAK (Chase Michael Anthony Kowlaski) Foundation was created. The organization gives grants to 16 YMCAs throughout the state to hold free, six-week camps for children aged 5 to 13, where they receive training to be triathletes and over 600 of those kids participated in Saturday’s events.
"I’ve always loved this camp. It was so much fun," said 11 year-old Trevor Rostuwski.
And 7 year-old Aulani Parlor said her camp helped experience new things. "It helped me learn how to swim, run and bike and I literally did not know how to bike before."
For Rebecca, it’s about helping kids to realize their potential while turning tragedy into triumph and remembering the life of her son.
"We are so excited to be able to hug people and just be out here together to honor Chase and his spirit and get these kids to cross that finish line," she said.