Guest Blog: Bella’s First Triathlon by Andrea Haefele

At the beginning of May I was honoured to provide my blog as a platform for one of my friends Andrea to share her families story. Andrea shared how she was bringing “Visibilities to Disabilities” and you read, connected, and helped us raise awareness! We were both very overwhelmed by your interest and your generosity.

I remember the day after the post, when the views were already in the hundreds, Andrea messaged me to say she received a financial donation to Bella’s (Andrea’s daughter) Autism Walk by someone she had never met, she couldn’t understand why as I tried to explain my belief in the use of social media for social good. Well it didn’t take long before Bella had raised  over $3,000 for Autism research with your help and this post was quickly shared and passed along and nearly 1,000 people read about Bella’s story.  As parents of children with disabilities you also reached out and connected with Andrea and supported her and her family emotionally, the response from the social media community was simply put, overwhelming. And so, I’m happy to share my blog again with Andrea, providing her the venue to share her gratitude and the excitement of Bella’s first triathlon. 

jesse3Thank you to my dear friend Heather for sharing my family’s story. We laughed, we cried as we experienced how beautiful our daughter Bella truly is. When I first decided to share our journey about our daughter who has special needs, Heather immediately wanted to help us raise awareness that kids of all abilities can do anything and everything.

On Saturday, June 1st, Bella participated in her first triathlon at the Family Fun Fit’s 9th Annual East End Kids of Steel Triathlon event. Bella’s team of 5 friends from the Holland Bloorview Play & Learn Nursery School and their families gathered to enjoy a fun and active day. As we helped our children set up their equipment at each transition, our smiles extended ear to ear with eagerness. As Bella’s mother, coach, and cheerleader, my stomach was stirring jesse2with a mishmash of anxiousness and excitement, and anticipation as we waited for the race to begin.

Bella was all smiles as we started the first leg of the race. She splashed into the water with content. Bella swam her 15 metres quickly, laughing all the way. As we walked to the bike transition, I paused and contemplated that, just a mere 2 years ago, Bella was unable to walk. I took a moment to relish Bella’s triumph and reflected on how thankful I am for everything that I have.

With our help, Bella hopped on her new red trike. My parents had modified the tricycle by transforming a luggage strap into a seatbelt and by creating foot plates so that Bella could feel the motion of the pedals going around. After 600 metres of cycling, we transitioned to the last leg of the race. Running 100 metres was going to be Bella’s strongest event. As we approached jesse1the finish line, music was blaring and people were cheering. I found myself overwhelmed with the same pride and joy that I feel when I complete my own races. It was truly one of my proudest moments, to date, as a mother. My husband and son both cheered loudly for our Bella.

To some people, Bella is a little girl with physical and cognitive developmental delays. Others may identify her as a child with autism spectrum disorder. To us, she is an individual who embodies strength, perseverance, and joy. She exudes a certain spark of energy that reminds me to push forward and to never give up.

Thank you to everyone who has read and shared our story. With your love and generous support, Bella was able to raise almost $3000 towards Autism research and to help our family bring visibility to disabilities.

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