Last Saturday was a big day for more than 100 youngsters who competed in the Third Annual My Tri Triathlon at Bass Lake. It was even a bigger day for seven-year-old Aiden Rubio of North Fork, the only autistic child who participated in the event.
“Aiden is able to participate in this wonderful event because of all of the support from our amazing community, and the My Tri organizers,” said Aiden’s grandmother, Kim Kocsis. “Aiden has special needs and the encouragement and support that we get from the event organizers is amazing. The event organizers (Michele Miller and Carrie Waltner) told me they would do whatever they had to do to accommodate Aiden so he could participate in the event. Aiden is accepted just the way he is and we are so grateful.”
For a moment, it looked like Rubio might not even start the race - he was afraid to enter the water off the dock at Miller’s Landing Resort, until Michelle Miller helped him and told him he would be OK. Once he conquered his fear and settled into the water with Yosemite High School swimmer Rose Curley, he was off on his nearly one hour swim, bike, and run adventure.
Rubio trusted Michelle and Rose - Rose gave him private swim lessons this summer.
“She did that out of the kindness of her heart,” Kim said. “This kind of love and support is why we love this community and would not want to raise Aiden anywhere else.”
Asked after the race what his favorite part of the My Tri event was, he said swimming with Rose, riding his bike with his grandfather (Dan), and running with his cousin Loryn (Poulsen).
“Everything was my favorite,” Rubio said. “Doing this makes me feel strong, and I really liked helping my friends because I didn’t want to leave them behind. Doing your best, trying hard, and being a good friend is important.”
Rubio said the worst part of the day was he did not get to show his winning ‘strong man pose’ to everyone.
Dan, a retired pharmacy lab tech, and Kim, who works as a medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakhurst, have had guardianship of Rubio since he was six months old. The couple volunteer for community events, assist other families, advocating for their children with special needs, and spread awareness of Autism whenever they can.
Rubio, a second grader at North Fork Elementary School with a one-to-one aide, Nicole Bailey, is already planning for next year’s race.
“I’m going to train hard for next year’s race so I can win a medal,” Rubio said.
He also has a year to practice his ‘strong man’ pose.
“We couldn’t be more proud of him,” Kim said. “He makes us better.”
Event receives a lot of community support
Staged at Miller’s Landing Resort, the triathlon featured four age divisions, more than 100 youngsters and 80 volunteers. Depending on the participants age, the race consists of three divisions: Dash (50 yard swim/two-mile bike/0.5 mile run), Sprint (100 yard swim/four-mile bike/one mile run), and Ace (200 yard swim/eight-mile bike/two-mile run).
“Our hearts are filled with the smiles, the energy, and the determination of these amazing kids,” Waltner said.
The event benefited from a break in the smoke from the Rough Fire that canceled most Friday night football games throughout the Central Valley the day before, and returned Sunday morning.
The event is supported by about 50 businesses and individuals, and is sponsored by the Chawanakee Children’s Educational Foundation, and benefits art and sports enrichment programs at Chawanakee District schools. The event was expected to raise about $5,000.