Help me raise money for Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia, while I train to swim, bike, and run in the Rocketman Triathlon!

I’m going to complete a triathlon in May 2013, and I need your help.

In a speech at Rice University, 50 years ago, President Kennedy pressed Americans to take on the great challenges we faced. Although motivated by external forces, some of these challenges – most notably our race to the moon – were of our own deliberate design. The moon mission gave us a specific goal toward which to advance science and defense, demonstrate strength, and bolster national pride. Kennedy explained that it would “serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

I need to get in shape. My lifestyle, while very busy, is largely sedentary in terms of physical activity. Despite occasional new year’s resolutions and other attempts at self-improvement, I haven’t made much progress. I’ve realized that, just like our nation did, I need a specific and ambitious goal in order to “organize and measure” my efforts. I was very sick several years ago, culminating in major surgery in 2008. For a long time, I had an excuse not to get up and move, and a depressing rationalization for why I’d never be able to do things like a triathlon. Now I have no excuses. I’m grateful for good health, and my doctors look forward to my taking on appropriate exercise.

President Kennedy noted that while we had sometimes failed in our attempts to reach space, at least we did so publicly. This contrast with our secretive adversaries served not only to distinguish our values, but also to motivate our results. Likewise, I need to be public about my goals, successes, and failures.

So I’m telling you that I’m going to complete a triathlon, which means now I have to do it.

This event -- consisting of a 1/4 mile swim, 33-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile (5K) run -- will be a significant challenge for me. First, I don’t really know how to swim or run. Second, to the extent I can call on survival instincts to avoid drowning or flee a predator, I can’t do it for very long. Third, no one wants to see me in spandex.

But I’m confident that I am capable of swimming and running once someone tells me how, and I know from my cycling history that a 33-mile ride on flat land is totally doable. I think the diversity of events in a triathlon will force me to keep to a well-rounded workout routine, rather than whatever limited exercise I might enjoy most. Plus, this particular triathlon has a special component – the bike portion winds through the launch pads of the Kennedy Space Center! Given my space story, I’m very excited about this unique opportunity to cycle past the very spots from which every manned U.S. mission has launched.

I hope I can exploit your likely astonishment at this endeavor to help support a worthy cause. For the last three years, I have served as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. This program, which is operated by local non-profit Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia, trains volunteers to advocate for children who are victims of abuse or neglect. A CASA investigates the circumstances of each child’s life, facilitates connections between families and service providers, and writes detailed reports to the judge containing recommendations in the best interests of the child. In addition to the CASA program, SCAN also offers parenting classes and conducts public education campaigns aimed at preventing child abuse.

A triathlon isn’t an inherently monumental event, but it is for me. If you’d like to support and encourage me as I pursue this goal, please do so by contributing generously to SCAN. Your contributions will obviously help thousands of children in need, but they’ll also help me know that you’re interested in my success, and will keep me motivated to stick to my training regimen.

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