I want to tell you about a children’s athletic activity that emphasizes a child’s personal achievement and goals and healthy lifestyle, while still allowing for competition.

The Ironkids Bread Triathlon combines the efforts of corporate sponsors, service organizations, schools, parents and children to improve children’s lives.

The local Ironkids Triathlon will be held July 16-17 at the Lake Highlands North Recreation Center. It is one of 18 events held nationwide and is sponsored by Rainbo/Colonial Bakeries, divisions of Campbell Taggart, Inc.

The Triathlon is for children ages seven through 14 and has three segments – swimming, bike riding and running, with race distances adjusted for age levels. The participants can compete in all three events or join a relay team where each child completes one race segment.

As a member of the White Rock/Lake Highlands YMCA Board of Management, I was asked to work as a volunteer in the 1993 race. I asked my oldest son, who was eight years old at the time, if he would like to try the event for fun. Even though he had never heard of a triathlon, he gave it a shot.

The evening before the race, we arrived at the park for registration, orientation and a required swim qualification for first-time participants. Several hundred children, parents and volunteer workers attended the orientation session.

The event coordinators talked to the kids about healthy diet and a lifelong fitness and exercise program. They also explained race procedures and the overall program theme, “Every Finisher is a Winner.”

Every participant who crosses the finish line breaks through a “winner’s tape” and receives a finisher pin. In short, each child is taught to feel good about himself or herself.

My family enjoyed the event so much that we became more involved. Following the Dallas event, we traveled to two out-of-state events, including the National Championship in Nashville, Tenn.

This year, my two younger sons are old enough to participate, and our family has already been to three Ironkids Triathlons.

We have made new friends in the process, but the greatest benefit has been the opportunity to exercise as a family. You can’t send seven- and nine-year-olds out to swim, bike and run on their own. Hopefully, we’re setting a lifestyle for the kids and beginning a much-needed fitness program for Mom and Dad.

If you are interested in the Ironkids Triathlon Series – as either a child participant, adult volunteer or corporate sponsor – call the local event coordinator, Wendy Barber, at our own White Rock/Lake Highlands YMCA.

Become involved with our kids, and remember: “Every Finisher is a Winner.”