Parent with a Purpose: Meet Theresa Roden Founder of I-Tri
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By Delaney Oser, Publisher Macaroni Kid Hamptons & Hamptons West
Date: May 12, 2017
Theresa Roden’s goal is to be a bright light in the world and to positively impact the lives of everyone she meets. In 2010, Theresa founded i-tri and her journey to teach girls that they are capable, strong and worthy began. I-tri girls are taught to believe in themselves and their peers. At an age, where many are struggling with lack of self esteem and difficult life choices, i-tri teaches them to look inward and to find their own strength. The program culminates in a youth distance triathlon bringing the girls from a place of I think I can to I know I can.
Over the past 7 years, i-tri has grown from a pilot project serving eight girls at one school to an established, trusted and comprehensive program serving over 100 girls and their families in six Long Island school districts. The entire program is offered free of charge to every participant. Through the program’s rich and comprehensive approach, the girls discover that it’s not only about getting to the finish line, but what you learn and who you become along the way.
What is your mission and what do you want to accomplish?
“My mission is to be a bright light in the world and positively impact the lives of everyone I meet. In i-tri we use the metaphor of LIGHT – it represents our SPIRIT and when we are feeling good our LIGHT shines really bright in the world and others benefit. When we are not feeling so good, the opposite is true – so it is our JOB – to try and be as positive and feel good as much as possible in order to SHINE BRIGHT and be a beacon for others. The girls that participate in i-tri quickly discover all the ways to accomplish this – when they exercise they feel good, when they cook and create healthy meals and snacks they feel good, when they silence their inner critic and replace her with an inner cheerleader they feel good and when they show kindness and compassion to others their LIGHTS brighten the whole world!”
What inspired you to start i-tri?
“I was never an athlete. I hated gym class as a kid and was always picked last for any team. I was overwight and spend a whole lot of time feeling bad about myself. When I was in my mid-thirties, I was sitting on the beach with friends and family on Block Island. All of a sudden, I saw these people running down the beach with numbers written in Sharpie on their arms. I turned to a friend and asked – what is this? He told me that they were racing the Block Island Triathlon and went on to explain it to me. For some crazy reason,I decided then and there that next year I was going to be one of those “crazy people.” I returned home and told a few friends and the next thing I know about 5 of us, moms, started training. Those 9 months of training were the most transformative of my life. Instead of being the someone who always thought I CAN”T, I began saying OK in order to reach my goal I have to try. The more I tried the faster and more confident I became. My inner dialogue changed and for the first time ever, I was kind and encouraging to myself! Race day came and I will never forget the moment, halfway through the bike leg of the race when it hit me. I was actually doing this! Crossing the finish line was amazing, but it was truly the journey that was most transformative. After that race, I went on to do two more that season and the following winter I encouraged a bunch of other adults to start training and doing triathlons – I was hooked!”
“Fast forward a few years and my daughter Abby was entering Middle School at Springs School in East Hampton. She was never going to be a bat and ball “team” athlete. I thought to myself, if I could have learned all that I have learned through my journey at her age – what a difference it would have made in my life. That is where the idea for i-tri came from. What IF we were to take a group of girls who did not necessarily consider themselves to be athletes, girls who were struggling social or emotionally and what if we gave them all of the training and support to complete a triathlon? Well, here we are 8 years and 250 girls later!”
How did your life before children influence the work you do?
“I believe that everything that I have ever experienced or done in my life has been leading me to the work I do today. I struggled as an adolescent. I studied elementary and early childhood education in college and worked as a Pre-School and Kindergarten Teacher at the Hampton Day School for 10 years before becoming a mom and then being a mom best prepared me!”
What lessons/values are you learning through the process? What lessons/values do you hope your kids are learning?
“I am learning that we all have an endless capacity to LOVE if we are open to it. I always say that is what my job is – the coaches are in charge of their training and making sure that the girls are physically prepared to complete the triathlon. My job is to LOVE them and to BELIEVE in them, even when they do not yet believe in themselves. I help them find that one thing in each of them that makes them feel special and to acknowledge it. My daughter benefited as a participant while she was in Middle School, but she blossomed as an Alumna Mentor and has become a phenomenal leader and role model for the younger girls.”
What do you do to take care of yourself and how do you make time to do it?
”The bigger the program grows the harder it is to find time for myself, but I do try to make it a priority. Exercise is incredibly important to my mental health so I make every effort to work out at least 5 days a week and walk in the woods or on the beach as much as I can. I also Love to unplug at the movies – there is nothing better than sitting in that dark theater and being transported away for a few hours.”
What can we do to support you in the community?
“I am always so blown away by the generosity of our East End Community-we would not be able to provide this program free of charge to each participant if it were not for the generosity of the businesses and individuals that support i-tri. It costs us close to $2,000 per girl to give her all of the coaching, workshops, equipment and transportation to get to the FINISH LINE. This year we are working with close to 135 girls! “
They offer sponsorship opportunities at their races: TurboTri – our adult SuperSprint Triathlon which is held on Saturday, June 17th (www.turbotri.org) and the Hamptons Youth Triathlon (all kids ages 10-17) which will be held on Thursday, July 13th at Long Beach in Sag Harbor (www.hamptonsyouthtri.org) Sponsorship levels range from $5,000 to be the NAMING SPONSOR to $500 T-Shirt and $250 Dinner Sponsors.
They are presently doing an online crowdfunding event with Good Circle to help cover the costs of coaching and transportation and any dollar amount helps i-tri to reach their goal.
My daughter Emma was lucky enough to participate in i-tri two years ago and I was incredibly impressed with the program. It is run with heart, soul and a lot of love. Theresa is truly an inspirational Parent with a Purpose.