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Red Rock Elementary fourth grader Hannah Wellens will be competing in the MiracleKids Triathlon Aug. 4 at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis and Red Rock Elementary fifth grader Marisa Duran will be participating in the MiracleKids Triathlon Aug. 18 at Lake Anne in Chanhassen. The triathlon aims to raise money for the Miracles of Mitch Foundation, which supports families of pediatric cancer patients.

District 833 students to participate in triathlon fundraiser

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District 833 students to participate in triathlon fundraiser
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Last year Red Rock Elementaryrallied around one of its students who was battling cancer by participating in the Miracles of Mitch Foundation's MiracleKids Triathlon, which raises money for families dealing with pediatric cancer.

A total of 29 students raised more than $10,000.

Red Rock Elementary and students from around District 833 will be raising money once again this year with the 833 Miracle Makers, at the MiracleKids Triathlon Aug. 4 at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis and Aug. 18 at Lake Anne in Chanhassen.

"The students are doing something to promote healthy lifestyles for themselves," Red Rock Principal Andy Caflisch said, "but what's more important is that there's a bigger cause for providing support to these families."

The 833 Miracle Makers, which has a total of 45 students, is hoping to raise $20,000 for the organization this year.

Currently the team has raised $10,870 through a car wash, bake sale and individual fundraisers.

"We still have some time; I'm confident that we'll make that," Caflisch said.

Miracles of Mitch

The Miracles of Mitch Foundation was started in 2003 in honor of 9-year-old Mitch Chepokas, who died of pediatric cancer.

While battling cancer, Chepokas became increasingly aware of how other pediatric cancer patients and their families' suffering continued to grow.

Chepokas became aware that not all pediatric cancer patients had the same love and support he felt from his family and friends; so he decided to anonymously donate monies earmarked for him to his fellow pediatric cancer patients.

Chepokas' final "pinky swear" with his father, Steve, was to honor his desire to do anything they could to support these families during such a stressful time.

The Miracles of Mitch Foundation supports families of pediatric cancer patients by assisting with household and lodging expenses. Car payments, cellphone bills, travel costs and child care costs also are covered. Support also includes providing stress-free weekend getaways and five-day summer camps for current and past cancer patients.

The foundation funds initiatives through a number of events including the MiracleKids Triathlon.

Racing for those who can't

Caflisch said he decided to organize a triathlon team last year at Red Rock after his son participated and enjoyed it.

Caflisch happened to be talking with a Red Rock parent whose child had participated in the triathlon as well.

That same year, one of Red Rock's students had gone through cancer treatment, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to organize something, Caflisch said.

"It's quite a moving experience," he said. "It's something the kids can really feel good about."

Caflisch said last year's triathlon was such a success he decided to expand it to all District 833 schools.

"So much of development has to do with character education and kids understanding the greater community," he said. "The idea here is that that it's kids doing something to give back to other kids.

"The triathlon motto is 'Kids racing for kids who can't.'"

The MiracleKids Triathlon functions similar to other triathlons in that it is divided into three areas - running, swimming and biking.

The distances are a half-mile run, 100-yard swim and three-mile bike ride for ages seven to 10 and a one-mile run, 200-yard swim and six-mile bike ride for ages 11 and up.

Also during the race, the triathletes receive the name of a pediatric cancer patient they are racing for, which they then write on their legs.

Red Rock Elementary fourth grader Hannah Wellens and fifth grader Marisa Duran said they decided to participate last year in honor of their classmate.

The girls had such a great time they decided to participate again this year.

"I'm most looking forward to finishing it and raising money," Marisa said.

Both Marisa and Hannah said they have been spending time at the YMCA of Woodbury swimming and spending time outside biking and running in order to train for the triathlon.

Hannah's mother Molly said she is proud of her daughter for taking the initiative to compete in the triathlon.

"I'm really proud of them for agreeing to do that," she said. "There's not many adults that would take on a triathlon, so it makes me proud."

The triathlon does not time its triathletes.

"They all finish, they're all winners no matter what," Molly Wellens said. "It's a great self-esteem booster."

Molly Wellens said the whole MiracleKids Triathlon experience, and the pediatric cancer stories they've heard, have been an eye opener for her, her daughter and the rest of the 833 Miracle Makers.

"Those are the personal stories that keep pushing us to gather donations and support," she said. "They continually play over and over in my head and remind me of what a great cause this is."

The 833 Miracle Makers will be participating in the MiracleKids Triathlon Aug. 4 at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis and on Aug. 18 at Lake Anne in Chanhassen. Donations can be made at the team's fundraising page located at

Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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