These days, it's not unusual for an athlete to dedicate a special game to someone who has passed away. For years, triathletes April Hartsook and her pal Karen Kelly have competed in Ironman competitions around the world, raising awareness and funding for research to find a cure in the WAR ON ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In honor of their friends Jon Blais & Rosemary Craig, and in memory of Karen's Mother, all who died of ALS. But this year, it's different, April will be racing not only without Karen, now she's racing FOR Karen. Through some sick twist of fate, Karen was herself diagnosed with ALS in 2012, and is in the fight of life.
Here in America, nearly 6,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year, and over 30,000 have the disease at any given time. Karen Kelly's Mom was one of those victims, and now, so is Karen.
"Karen is a true Ironman. For years she has tirelessly given to the ALS BLazeman Foundation and the ALS community in hopes of raising awareness. She's been strong for others, and now we want to be strong for her", said Hartsook, who is a professional fitness trainer in North Carolina when she's not traveling the globe to compete in Ironman competitions.
An Ironman competition requires participants to compete in three events within a 17 hour time limit They consist of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. Over 100,000 athletes enter some 37 Ironman races every year, hoping to snag one of the 2,000 slots in the annual Ironman World Championships, which are held in Kona, Hawaii. Anyone who finishes first in his age group in any race during the season, automatically qualifies for a slot in the Kona finals, held in October.
April has been training everyday of her life for many years and is fully prepared for a qualifying race to gain entry, however she has entered the 2013 IRONMAN KONA INSPIRED CONTEST by submitting a video describing her plight to get to Kona to fight for Karen, not because she wants something for FREE~ but because the Ironman mantra “Anything is Possible” is what we need in finding a CURE for ALS. April will be asking people to log onto the website www.konainspired.com, watch her video entitled "KONA FOR KAREN AND ALS", and with the simple click of the mouse, cast a VOTE to help send them to KONA. Entries with the most votes will be granted a complimentary an entry in the Race. "This isn't about me, this is about Karen and the WAR ON ALS, I need to get to KONA and having the world help me gives them a chance to be a part of something "So others may live", said Hartsook.
For April & Karen, the clock is ticking, this disease is fast and furious and Karen is fighting for her life.
The World Championship stage will serve as the perfect global platform to tell the world this disease NEEDS a cure.
"I've lost too many friends to ALS, and I'm tired of feeling helpless against this horrible disease", said Hartsook. "There is not a doubt in my mind I am capable of finishing the Ironman in KONA, and I want to cross that finish line and hug my friend and tell her she matters, and tell the world ALS NEEDS A CURE".
April has already helped to raise thousands of dollars from individuals and companies who have supported her mission, and that money goes directly to the Blazeman Foundation for ALS (www.waronals.com) and is dispersed with some of the funding going to Grants here in our own community at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, who are working to find a cure for ALS.
"I'll be asking for VOTES, and I'll be asking people to donate what they can, if they can. . And if I can compete on the World Stage of IRONMAN and captivate an audience large enough, we can spread the word, bring the awareness needed, and raise funds to help find a cure for this horrible disease. "I want millions of people to know why I'm racing", said Hartsook. "SO OTHERS MAY LIVE".