Youth with Disabilities Swim, Bike, Run at Chicago Camp – Chalkbeat Chicago | WHs Answers

Donna Barnes stood in the park next to 63rd Street Beach and cheered on her grandson Seraph. The 12-year-old rode his bike to the finish line of a triathlon course built for him and more than two dozen other kids.

It was a joyful moment for Seraph, who was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and underwent foot surgery in February.

Children with physical disabilities like Seraph are often excluded from traditional sports and summertime activities, said Keri Serota, co-founder and chief executive officer of Dare2Tri, a local nonprofit. Dare2Tri gives people with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in triathlon sports such as swimming, cycling and running.

“Our goal is to break down those barriers so these kids have the opportunity to attend camp and be a kid and experience swimming, biking and running alongside their peers,” Serota said.

This week the organization hosted a two-day Kids Tri Camp in Chicago. Kids will be provided with the gear they need to compete in the sport of triathlon, including racing wheelchairs and bikes with adaptive gear, Serota said. The program costs $25, but there are grants for families who can’t afford the fee, she said. The organizers also provide transportation so that everyone can participate. All year round they hold weekly sports exercises, other camps and clinics.

Brian and Janie Schoenbeck traveled from their home in Sparta, Illinois, more than 300 miles south of Chicago, so their daughter Kaitlin, 8, could attend camp. Kaitlin has Distal Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare genetic condition that affects her muscles and bones.

This is only her second year at Tri Camp, but she and her parents have traveled to Chicago for other Dare2Tri programs because they couldn’t find programs near them. Brian and Janie commended the organization for welcoming their family and helping them figure out how to get their daughter involved in more adaptive sports.

“[Camp] Kaitlyn enjoys and taught us a lot about activities we didn’t know were available for children in wheelchairs,” said Brian.

Kaitlin said her favorite activity at camp is swimming. She was looking forward to competing in the final triathlon-style race on Wednesday.

Participants began the course in Lake Michigan and swam ashore before running in the park. They were helped onto their bikes for the final leg of the course, and some cycled about two miles to Promontory Point and back. Dare2Tri guides accompanied the children on the course. At the finish, a box of medals was ready to be handed over.

Competitors start Wednesday’s triathlon race in Lake Michigan.

Eileen Pomeroy / Chalkbeat

Laura Esposito said her son Danny, 7, enjoyed his first year at Tri Camp. Esposito has him enrolled in other camps because of his independence, but this camp is helpful because she doesn’t have to worry about the necessary housing being available or Danny having to sit out some activities.

Danny has cerebral palsy, which affects his legs, and he couldn’t ride a bike until he joined the Dare2Tri program over a year ago, Esposito said. In addition to teaching him to ride a horse, the organization helped the family apply for grants to purchase a specialty bike with adaptive gear, she said. Because he has his bike at home, he now rides around the neighborhood with his family.

Barnes was thrilled to see grandson Seraph swimming for the first time. Now she wants to take him to some local pools for more exercise. Barnes also plans to apply for a grant that will help him get a bike with the adaptive gear he used at camp, she said.

Though Barnes had a difficult time finding summer camps that would take Seraph, she said she was determined to sign him up for some camps next year, which he’s already looking forward to. But Tri Camp was good for Seraph, Barnes said, smiling as she filmed her grandson as he crossed the finish line.

For more information about Dare2Tri’s camp and other programs, visit Website

Eileen Pomeroy is an intern at Chalkbeat Chicago. Contact Eileen at

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