MyTeam Triumph Wisconsin leaves disabilities in the dust
Adam Voisin used to travel to races and watch his mom run, while sitting in a wheelchair at the mile markers.
Now, he counts them.
Propelled by the angels of myTeam Triumph Wisconsin, the 22-year-old from Muskego rolls through races as a joyful participant, not a lonely spectator isolated by the cerebral palsy that limits his mobility.
Since his first, nervous outing in Green Bay, Voisin has participated in dozens of races and recently completed the Ironman 70.3 Racine.
"It opens me up to a lot of brand new opportunities and to bring awareness to this wonderful organization," Voisin said of his new role as a myTeam Triumph captain.
"He's making friends, getting out, coordinating training runs and managing his own social life," Lisa Voisin, his mother, elaborated. "It lessened his anxiety and opened up his world to being able to trust other people."
Providing a path from isolation to participation is the core purpose of myTeam Triumph Wisconsin, an organization founded in 2010 by Christian Jensen, a personal trainer and former NCAA Division III discus champion. Jensen created the Wisconsin chapter under the umbrella of a national organization that now includes 32 chapters in 22 states and Canada.
Wisconsin is on track to have four chapters, with the addition of the southeast region this year and groups in the Fox Valley and Madison areas to follow. Runners and spectators will see at least ten captains like Adam Voisin pushed by angels in the Briggs & Al's Run & Walk on Sept. 13 and more at the Brewers Mini-Marathon and 10k on Sept. 20.
Jensen, a driving force whether pushing a wheelchair or steering a non-profit organization, has an ambitious goal: myTeam Triumph in 50 races across Wisconsin each year, reaching 50,000 angels and captains.
"When we started in 2010, we chose the name myTeam Triumph Wisconsin, and we knew someday people seeing us in different parts of the state would say 'I want my son to do that' or 'I want my daughter to do that,'" he said. "Eventually we knew we would need to provide those opportunities for the greater area of the state.
"Central to our mission is for people not to just get engaged in the races, but to get together the way runners do when they join a running club," Jensen continued. "Training is a big part of it, almost more important than the races. That's where you develop the bond with people."
Voisin and Johanna Perrini know that completely.
They first met when Perrini's co-worker at Robert W. Baird & Co., Adam's mother Lisa, asked her to fill in as an angel. She pushed a wheelchair with a captain in the 2011 Bellin Run 10K in Green Bay and was hooked from the first step. She quickly started training with Adam near his home in Muskego: long runs, marathon training, at 5 a.m.
"It's hills and farmland," said Perrini, 32, and a runner since her college days. "We named every hill together and talked about what we wanted to do with the organization."
For many runners, the long outings necessary to train for a marathon are drudgery. Adam loves them. The longer the better. More time out in the fresh air, free to roll, to see and to experience.
He asks, "Is it really done? Can we stay out there a little longer?"
Pushing Adam has been equally transformative for Perrini.
"Getting absorbed into this community, you're humbled," the marathon veteran said. "Running before, it was kind of all about me. It's nice to have that selfish pleasure. When I did it with Adam, the reward of it was so much more fulfilling. It was definitely challenging and rewarding at the same time. It's just a great enhancement doing it for someone else, giving the gift of that experience to someone who would never experience it. Running isn't the same anymore."
Perrini joined the Board of Directors of myTeam Triumph and now serves as director of the southeast region.
The sense of giving she described is the root of myTeam Triumph, a group inspired by the father-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, who have completed more than 1,000 races since their first five-mile run in the early 1980s. Dick has talked often about the joy of loaning his arms and legs to his son, and Rick captured the feeling that all myTeam Triumph captains share:
"… When I'm running, it feels like my disability disappears."
MyTeam Triumph Wisconsin operates on a budget of about $200,000 a year and provides more than 30 strollers and eight boats for runs, bike tours and triathlons. Donations to the charity help build the fleet of equipment necessary. Donations can be made via the website.
Christian Jensen started myTeam Triumph with one captain, a client of his at Bellin Health in Ashwaubenon. The Wisconsin group now totals more than 700 people with disabilities who are integrated into the athletic community. Jensen plans to reach thousands more. Anyone interested in joining as a captain or an angel can follow this link.
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