Nearly 500 kids will test their limits at the Race4Chase triathlon in Southington Saturday. The event honors Sandy Hook school shooting victim, 7-year-old Chase Kowalski.
Chase’s mom, Rebecca Kowalski, said this race keeps her son’s spirit alive. Before the Race4Chase, kids are putting their fitness to the test with training.
Whether they’re lacing up to run, or wheeling away on a bike, the kids training for the triathlon have someone to motivate them.
“Everyone give me a ‘woohoo’ for Race4Chase!" Edwin Vinueza, an 11-year-old from Waterbury said to pump up the group.
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“I'm doing this for an important cause, because of this kid. Chase. He was like, he's very inspirational to me," Vinueza said.
“He loved triathlons. So we're just trying to embrace what he did!” Trevor Rostowsky, a 12-year-old from Bethany, added.
Chase even completed a triathlon at just age six!
“It changed him so much, just gave him so much more confidence,” Kowalski said.
It was the summer before Chase died in the 2012 shooting. His parents started Race4Chase a year later.
“Actually, it was Chase,” Kowalski said. “He came to me in a vision and he said, ‘Mama, we're going to change the world.’ And nine years later, we've made a huge impact on the lives of children and put our little mark on changing the world.”
The CMAK Foundation, created by the Kowalski's in Chase’s honor, gives grants to 17 area YMCAs and the Newtown Community Center to hold free camps for kids to train for weeks.
“Six weeks at this point. So it's been pretty intense,” Rostowsky said.
On Saturday, 480 kids ages five to 13 will become triathletes when they complete the swimming, biking and running portions of the race.
“I just have to remember him, and it inspires me,” Vinueza said.
It is something Kowalski takes comfort in.
“When Chase did a 400-meter run, a little boy Walter came and grabbed him by the hand and helped him cross the finish line,” she said. “So we'd like to think that when any kid is struggling with Race4Chase, if they asked Chase, he'll grab their hand and help them cross the finish line.”
His memory keeps the kids on track.
“He's always with us. Even if you can't really see him,” Ethan Rosa, 10, from Waterbury, said.
“We’re happy that we're doing this camp for him,” Nala Jackson, an 11 year-old from Prospect, said.
Chase also lives in his mom’s heart, and through the good done in his name.
“Not a day goes by we don't think about him. Ten years has come and gone in the blink of an eye and has dragged on,” Kowalski said. “But watching these kids grow up has been bittersweet. You know, we don't get to see Chase grow up. But we've got to see a lot of these kids who started when they were six. And they've gone through the program, come of age through program, and come back to be counselors and coaches. And it's just it's amazing."
Race4Chase is Saturday, Aug. 6 at YMCA Camp Sloper in Southington. The Kowalski's will deliver opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. and the first wave of triathletes take off at 9:15 a.m.