Around the campfire on the Saturday night of the triadventure, we have a little ritual of talking about the meaning of the whole experience, what it gives to us to do it. Saturday night, Chris Williamson told a story about his fundraising, how he was slow, and how Pam encouraged him and planted a bit of seed money, and within a week, he was one of the top fundraisers. “I think…” he said slowly, “every donation is an act of love, an act of trust in us.”
We have approximately 65 members of the Triadventure community, between athletes and crew and hybrids and people who raise funds but can’t participate in a given year because of infants or injuries or remoteness. Most of the donations to the Triadventure are in $40, $50, $100 increments. We raised nearly $100,000 in those increments this year. That is a profound galaxy of gestures of faith, of love, of trust. Moments of grace peppering the air around us, unifying the Canadians, their friends and family, and people they will never meet.
The Triad is a fundraiser, and connecting to the kids is an important part of it. We draw thin connections — an imperfect phone call on a rickety speaker phone (yes, skype would be awesome, and is at the moment not technically possible), photos of the kids, tiny snippets of their stories assigned to each kid. The two Yves riding with photos of Robinah and Bosum on their backs.
Thin as it is, the connection to the kids is powerful, and as people talked, I realized how embedded the commitment has become for some. “It hit me that I’m an auntie to all these children now,” said Catherine M. “I guess we’ll be doing this for 15 years,” said G, profoundly and matter of factly. These kids are “ours.”
And… it’s more. The community is support, and care for each other. Diversity of age, life experience, sexual orientation, gender, athletic and plodding and hopeful. Teenagers, grandparents, everywhere in between. Suburbs and urban, students and office jobs and a proprietor of a small vegetarian café in Trinidad. Connection. The trio of straight boys, new this year, brought in by a veteran, gracious and grateful and fitting right in with the ribbing about their hotness. Swift fit riders, struggling just as hard as the slower riders when one of their tires blew repeatedly and skill and care couldn’t fix it. Looking out for each other — everyone safe? How are the slower folks doing on the hills? Heather and Gabby rescuing a dumped canoe. Trying to help Chris find a way to resurrect his drowned phone. Playing.
This group, a family, a community that makes the best of each of us possible. Stepping into a space of hope, of possibility to support 50+ kids in a country whose officials wouldn’t find a lot of affirmation for who we are.
Stepping into it with humour, irony, love.
At the campfire, some people talked about legacies they are carrying as they engage with this, their fathers, the knife edge horror of an 8 year old nephew who passed away the day after the event. The care that buoys us to live into a belief in connection, that the concrete work we do with the kids at Niki, infused with love and grace and hope and deep intention, will create more than what is. The incredible hope of my beautiful girl Elinah, who at 23 recognizes this and wants to create a school where people can find what they are best at and bring them to life.
This community is deep collaboration, each of us pulling out the best in the other. Lisa, Blair, the steering committee pulling the million strings together that weave into places to sleep, food to eat, paint for the roads, a truck to tote around the donated rubbermaid bins full of gear. Steph and me working in tandem with an incredible, devoted crew that creates the habitat for the participants to move in. People ask me repeatedly through the weekend if I want to do the event, not crew it. I recall the greatest moments of grace I had while running marathons, the tears that came to my eyes when my then-partner, my family, my friends, strangers showed up on corners and handed me oranges or water. There is no athlete without the structure, without the outstretched hands. We are all the triadventure, all the community. I have the same tears when my ex appears at the arrival party, affirming, knowing what it means to me.
We got close to our operating budget for the year in the Triad, a miracle, a mystery of hundreds of moments of grace and faith, hundreds of hands writing cheques and clicking buttons that mean “I believe in you.” And we had a couple of incredibly generous personal donations in recognition of the fact that we have received approval of our own charitable status. And I had the brainwave that I don’t want those to go into the pool of general funds, but to use them to feed this innovative space, represented by what is created for the older kids when they do the Kibo leadership program and discover confidence and creativity, what Elinah is thinking about, Patti’s generous offer to work with some of the older ones to develop wider skills. A chance conversation with one of the new participants. Brain working now to create the seeds of the income generating, sustainability fostering model that will ensure the older kids who see the bigger world, who want to change it, will have a way to do that. I mention it, in brief, at the fire. The next day, another $7500 appears in personal donations. One rider stops at a bank machine in the middle of his 130 km, removes $1000 and shoves it into Lisa’s hand at a break.
Sublime and absurd. Back into my email afterwards, tedious issues about bank transactions and budget costs and why did we not just say Abdu was Ugandan, because as a Rwandan, his university fees triple. Nelly disciplined at school for possibly being one of the boys who “slaughtered a bull at night.” Love from the children, gratitude.
Faith, grace, love. Scottie wearing a cheerleader costume, holding incredible sadness about his nephew, in front of a church in rural Ontario on a Sunday morning, cheering on riders, affirming a future that holds everyone with affirmation and care.