By Slayten Carter
COLUMBUS – A national service organization known as MyTeam Triumph (MTT) has recently established a presence in the Mercer community thanks to a number of student volunteers at the School of Medicine campus in Columbus.
MyTeam Triumph is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who normally could not experience events such as triathlons or road races. MTT aims to enable youth and adults with disabilities to participate in local triathlons, 10Ks, 5Ks, marathons or half-marathons by partnering them with able-bodied competitors.
MyTeam Triumph – Wings of Columbus is a local chapter of the nonprofit organization founded last fall by Mercer medical students. The chapter strives to provide a safe and enjoyable experience in endurance sports to individuals who live with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Traumatic Brain Injury, Down syndrome, autism and other conditions that limit mobility.
One student in particular, Kristen Kettelhut, has spearheaded the effort to found the new chapter. Additional student founding members and executive board members include Matt Kahrmann, Kirby Chisholm, Spencer Anderson, Benny Screws, Christina Smith and Park Zheng.
“MyTeam Triumph brings the community together with specialized equipment necessary to allow these individuals the opportunity to experience the energy of packet pickup, the exhilaration of the starting line, the chaos of the race and the thrill of crossing the finish line,” said Kettlehut, who serves as executive director of the Columbus chapter. “The best part of all is that we do this at no cost to the captains.”
Captain is the term used by MTT for an individual with physical limitations who is pushed in a race. Angel is the term used for a volunteer who pushes a captain throughout the duration of a race.
“We medical students are always looking for ways to connect with the community around us. The Columbus campus is a relatively new campus for the School of Medicine, but we have been welcomed with open arms. This program provides us with a means to give back to a welcoming community and connect with local organizations and community stakeholders for growing our program,” said Kettelhut.
Kettelhut is one of a number of Mercer students who are active in the medical school volunteer leadership program, Distinction in Service to the Community (DISC), in which participants are responsible for creating, implementing, and potentially sustaining a service leadership project in their local community.
MyTeam Triumph – Wings of Columbus has received support from the office of Mercer’s Senior Vice Provost for Service Learning, Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, who serves as an adviser to the chapter.
“MyTeam Triumph is another instance of Mercer’s university-wide outreach to communities and the ethos of servant leadership that is cultivated in all of our schools and colleges,” said Dr. Morgan.
Kettelhut and her fellow student volunteers in Columbus are interested in bringing MyTeam Triumph to Mercer’s other campuses.
“There's no greater feeling than watching pure joy spread across a child's face when they cross the race finish line for the first time,” said Kettelhut. “Our goal is to provide as many racing opportunities to these physically limited children as possible.”
Ron Robb, CEO and founder of MyTeam Triumph, visited Columbus on Nov. 12 to bring the chapter wheelchairs for use in the recent Soldier Marathon 5K. He also discussed strategies with the students.
The chapter is currently fundraising and seeking grant and corporate sponsorship opportunities to purchase its own set of Americans with Disabilities Act-approved Axiom Racing wheelchairs. For more information, contact email@example.com.