This coming November IRONMAN will embark on its first official Charity Partnership with Smile Train, an international children’s charity that provides free surgery for those suffering from cleft lip and palate around the world.
IRONMAN and Smile Train’s team of 75 athletes will race to give new life and new smiles back to more than 1,500 children around the globe. Yet, as great as this endeavor has become, it started out with a humble phone call from one man who had the drive and dedication fit for an IRONMAN athlete and the love and dedication for Smile Train in his heart.
Jeremy Hough is a Major in the United States Air Force. He has devoted his life to his country and is soon to deploy overseas to Afghanistan. Inspired by a friend, Jeremy and his four buddies Andrew Sheehan, David Taylor, along with Matt and Mistie Cottrill, decided to take the challenge to compete in their first IRONMAN event. They had all competed in various half marathons, marathons and triathlons in the past and were ready to push themselves to the limits. With a pending overseas deployment next fall, this would be the group’s last opportunity to compete as a team for quite a while. Yet, as IRONMAN events go, the race they wanted entry to sold-out instantly and registration was closed to the general public. For most, this would have been the end to the story. But not for Jeremy, he had bigger plans.
Six years ago, Jeremy’s daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate. Thankfully, her cleft was corrected within the first few months of her life and she never suffered from ridicule, shame or isolation as many children so often do. As a thank you for the fast and excellent medical care his daughter received, Jeremy dedicated himself to raising money and awareness for the charity that helps those less fortunate than his daughter, Smile Train. And what better way, he thought, than to race for Smile Train in an IRONMAN triathlon.
Founded in 1999, Smile Train provides free surgery to poor children suffering from cleft lip and palate around the world. Smile Train has a network of more than 1,100 partner hospitals and provides education and training to more than 2,300 medical professionals in more than 87 countries — some of the world’s poorest. Every day Smile Train provides more than 340 surgeries and to date has provided more than 840,000 surgeries to those in need, giving them not only a new smile but a second chance at life.
Hough contacted IRONMAN directly in hopes of securing additional slots for himself and the rest of his team. Although IRONMAN could not accommodate the team directly, the organization was still working with several charities to fill charity slots. Jeremy immediately thought that if Smile Train was not one of those charities, it definitely should be; he was sure it had the potential to be a powerful alliance. He reached out to Smile Train, for whom he raised nearly $6,000 in the past two years by competing in various events and suggested that they throw their hat into the ring. Nicole Federico, Special Fundraiser Associate of Smile Train, jumped on the opportunity and secured five slots for Jeremy’s team to compete in the 2013 IRONMAN Lake Placid event. Recognizing the potential, she proposed Smile Train raise the ante even higher and, within a few days, a formal partnership was formed naming Smile Train as the official charity partner of the IRONMAN Arizona event in 2013. The race is scheduled for Sunday, November 17, 2013, with a team of fifty athletes competing on behalf of the charity.
As luck would have it, the 2012 IRONMAN Arizona was to take place the weekend after the partnership was formed and Federico quickly jumped on a plane to check out the race that, in one year, would become the premier fundraising event for Smile Train. Registration for the 2013 event opened the morning following the race and, incredibly, all of the available slots were filled in a matter of 40 seconds, leaving Smile Train as the only way for IRONMAN Arizona hopefuls to gain access to the race. The Smile Train slots sold out so quickly that an additional 25 were added, bringing the Smile Train team of athletes up to 75.
Together with the partnership of IRONMAN the Smile Train team will raise enough money to provide at least 1,500 surgeries for cleft children in need—giving them all not only a new smile, but a second chance to a brighter future — a future that would have been a lot more difficult if it hadn’t been for the persistence of Jeremy Hough. It goes without saying that the day Jeremy crosses the finish line, the words “You Are An IRONMAN” will have more meaning than they ever did; the words will live on in the smiles of children around the world, proving that one person can truly make a difference — one smile at a time.
Spots are still available on the 2013 IRONMAN Arizona Smile Train Team. If you are interested in joining, please contact Nicole Federico at email@example.com for details.