More than 500 young athletes completed a triathlon in Southington on Saturday, racing in honor of Chase Michael-Anthony Kowalski. Nearly ten years ago, in 2012, Kowalski was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He was 7 years old.
"We miss him every day, but this is a way of giving back in a positive way and not letting his life be lost," said Rebecca Kowalski, Chase's mom.
Chase's parents, Rebecca and Stephen, founded the CMAK (Chase Michael-Anthony Kowalski) Foundation to fund the Race4Chase program.
On Saturday, hundreds of kids from across the state gathered at Camp Sloper in Southington for the ninth year of the Race4Chase event.
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“He is very special and it is very important to honor him," said Ethan, a young triathlete from Wallingford.
Leading up to the triathlon, the children completed a free six-week Race4Chase triathlon program. The CMAK Foundation gives grants to more than a dozen camps across Connecticut to provide triathlon training.
“Because that’s what Chase wanted us to do. He said to me in a vision, 'Momma, we are going to change the world,' and I was like-what do you mean? This was a few days after he passed away," said Kowalski. "He just brought the people to us and it just happened that there was a program that was losing funding. It was about triathlon and he was a triathlete. It just was a perfect fit.”
When Chase was 6 years old, he became a triathlete.
While many of the people involved with Race4Chase never met Chase, they learn about him and his legacy.
“We talk about his enthusiasm for the sport, never quitting, always helping a friend," said Kowalski.
Whenever the athletes struggle during the race, they are encouraged to think of Chase.
“I thought of Chase and full sprint made it all the way to the finish line," said Alice, a triathlete from Southington. “We all keep him in our hearts. It is really important to me.”