Triathlete takes on homelessness

Rosie Molinary

Robyn Fehrman has been engrossed in activism and nonprofit work for ten years.  As a Community Program Officer at the Triangle Community Foundation, she is acutely aware of the needs of her community and the difference that funding can make to a non-profit.

So when she and her sister, Rachel Dirito, began talking about tackling some triathlons together in 2007, it was only natural for Fehrman to worry that the time commitment might require too much self-focus.

Her sister shared her concern and so, together, they organized Tri to End Homelessness, a joint effort to raise $2,500 to support Genesis Home, the Durham agency whose mission is to end homelessness for families with children and young people by providing housing and supportive services to foster independence and where Fehrman’s husband serves as the executive director.

“Triathlon is an individual sport that requires a lot of gear,” says Fehrman, 30.  “It can be a very selfish endeavor.  If I was going to do that much individually-focused activity, I wanted to offset that by doing something more community focused.”

Together, she and her sister drafted a letter asking for support, created a blog and began their training with the help of donated services from Sage Rountree, a triathlon coach in Chapel Hill who wanted to support their efforts.

Raising money for Genesis Home “was really a motivational force on those mornings that the alarm went off and we didn’t want to roll out of bed,” says Fehrman.  “We knew we were doing something for a purpose greater than ourselves.”

They completed five races over the 2007 triathlon season and raised more than $6,000 for the general operating expenses at Genesis Home.

“We all have the capacity and power to make a difference in our community, even in the smallest ways, and people are looking for a way to be connected and a way to be involved,” she says.  “This was just a vehicle for it.  It was easy to do and it built momentum along the way.”

Though Dirito’s academic workload will keep her from racing in 2008, Fehrman wanted to continue the effort.

With the ultimate goal of completing the 70.3 mile Beach to Battleship Half Iron this November in Wilmington, she hopes to raise $7,300 for Genesis Home.

She’ll continue to use her blog to tell people about her training experience and to educate them about Genesis Home and homelessness in general.

“Homelessness comes in all shapes and sizes,” she says.  “The families that we see at the grocery or on the bus or the kids we see walking home from school could be homeless. Genesis Home does that by giving families a place to stay together while they are moving out of homelessness and into productive life.”

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