Jack Bryans pedaled his tricycle across the finish line with a smile on his face.
“I love it,” the 9-year-old repeatedly repeated.
Jack was among the participants on Saturday in Tyler Junior College’s Tri My Best Triathlon for children with special needs on the TJC campus.
“For Jack, it’s a great opportunity for him to see that beautiful smile and know he can see other kids in wheelchairs like him and he doesn’t feel as different,” his mother said. Renee Bryans.
TJC launched the Tri My Best Triathlon event in 2019 at the Wagstaff Gymnasium, said Amanda Storer, event coordinator and assistant professor of the TJC physical therapy program.
Since the first event, TJC has been unable to hold it in person due to COVID-19, Storer said. Volunteers and participants were “really excited” on Saturday as children and families returned.
Saturday’s 30 attendees also got to ride bikes, run and participate in a water activity called zoom ball.
“This year (the kids) should have fun,” said Taylor Craver, aquatics event manager and alumnus of the TJC physical therapist assistant program.
Zoom ball is an activity in which children place a balloon of water in what’s called a “hydroball” that’s on rubber bands and then pull them in an effort to pop the balloon, Craver said.
She said she can’t wait to present this event, see the kids try it out, and help them along the way.
“I love being able to help – kids are the best,” she said. “Being able to see them smiling and having fun with things they don’t usually do is the best part of this program because we can help them all the time.”
More than 75 volunteers participated in Saturday’s event, Storer said. Volunteers included TJC faculty, current students, alumni of TJC’s Physical Therapy Assistant program, members of the Wellness and Exercise Science and Occupational Therapy Assistant programs, clinicians from area, students from Kilgore College and the University of Texas at Tyler, and members of the community.
Hosting the event and seeing the students and other volunteers get to partner with participating families to help their kids be successful at the activities was “really, really special,” Storer said.
One of Storer’s favorite parts of the event is being able to “show kids that they can do hard things or they can do things they thought they couldn’t, and also empower parents to seeing their kids doing things they thought maybe. they couldn’t do.