The upcoming Challenged Athletes Foundation San Diego Triathlon Challenge will have a sprinkle of Converse energy throughout: from the swag bags to the cheer squads to a few brave participants.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) provides opportunities and support to people with physical challenges, enabling them to pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. The foundation believes that involvement in sports, at any level, increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.
The CAF and its athletes represent much of what Converse values: a daring spirit, human connection through sport and Winning Together. Just as it is important for Converse to celebrate these things, it’s equally vital that we connect and support the wider community that upholds that mission. Converse’s Ontario distribution centers have nurtured a very special, powerful relationship with the CAF.
“We believe that everybody has the right to be physically fit and active. Converse is a lifestyle brand that reaches over so many younger generations. It’s a great connection point for us. To reach youth and kids, whether it’s our athletes that we’re supporting, or all kids,” Nancy Reynolds, Senior Director of Business Development for the CAF, said.
“For them to see a brand like Converse is supporting people with physical challenges to be healthy and have an active lifestyle, it helps us spread our message to audiences we wouldn’t reach otherwise.”
The distribution centers have been partnering with the CAF for seven years, and have grown this grassroots partnership into a strong, powerful experience for all involved.
The pinnacle of this partnership happens each year at the CAF’s San Diego Triathlon Challenge, which is the CAF’s main fundraising event. Converse donates a pair of custom Chuck Taylors for each participant’s swag bag, kitting them out with logos and designs created for the CAF – and many members of the distribution center team head to San Diego.
Often bringing family members along, our team members throw themselves into the weekend’s events, cheering on athletes as they cross the finish line, holding posters and serving as course supports, and occasionally participating in a few of the events.
Participating in the triathlon is a chance to both fundraise for the CAF and undertake a physical challenge. Entrants can sign up for a variety of events, including the full triathlon, a single event, a 5K walk and a stationary cycling marathon. Each entry comes with a fundraising minimum, enabling the athletes to do good while they compete.
Kenny Goskesen, Warehouse Lead Outbound, has participated in the Triathlon weekend as an athlete for five consecutive years. It’s an extremely powerful and moving event, he said, and one that feels even more impactful knowing an entire Converse team is experiencing that moment together.
“Not just myself, but us as a company, a team, we have so much to give back,” Kenny said.
“There’s a lot of things going on in our lives, and sometimes, we have to look at the big picture and see the different challenges that people are going through in all walks of life.”
The relationship began when the CAF was seeking a sneaker partnership, and the distribution center team was inspired to become more fully involved. What began as a small idea to make an impact in the community grew into a powerful tradition.
Over the years of partnership, the distribution centers have deployed many creative methods to raise awareness and funds for the CAF within their teams. Motivated by watching team members train to participate in the Triathlon as athletes, other members of the distribution center teams signed up to volunteer at the weekend’s events. They also took it upon themselves to fundraise for the CAF within their buildings, with creative ideas like selling homemade nachos and donating the proceeds to the foundation. This year, a poster competition sparked creativity within the distribution centers, with team members creating posters that will be used to cheer on athletes during the triathlon weekend.
“It’s an honor to partner with the CAF and participate in the annual Triathlon weekend,” Dennis Kost, Senior Manager Global Distribution Technology, said. “This event is really, truly life-changing. And it’s something I and my family and our team at the distribution center really looks forward to supporting and attending each year.”
Daisy Pena, Security Specialist, brings her two sons to the triathlon each year, and this year will also be joined by her sister and nephew. The day is a family bonding moment, she said, as well as a “once in a lifetime experience” for all involved. The opportunity to work with the CAF alongside her Converse team members is a particularly powerful bonding experience, Daisy added, and one that she feels encapsulates all of the Converse Values.
“[The triathlon] shows that anything is possible, and you should never give up. Athletes crossing the finish line are drained, but you could see on their face that it is a huge accomplishment for them,” Daisy said.
This year, the distribution center team is upping its game. As they prepare to send volunteers and athletes to the Triathlon, they’re also fundraising for the CAF through Give Your Best. Their goal is to raise $3,000 for the organization, another impressive chapter in the story of this special relationship. You can visit the Give Your Best portal to show your support, and be sure to cheer our team on this October 21!