IRONMAN Foundation to Create Global Impact in 2020: Announces All-Star Ambassador Team, Mālama Club Members and Plans for Service Projects
February 27, 2020
- Ambassador team highlighted by 33 carefully selected members: two team captains, 25 age-group triathletes, and six professional triathletes - The Mālama Club will comprise a total of 17 individuals
TAMPA, Fla. (February 27, 2020) – The IRONMAN Foundation® which creates positive, tangible change in race communities announced today the 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Team, recent inductions into the Mālama Club, along with its 27 service project initiatives for this season. The 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Team is comprised of 33 carefully selected members: two team captains, 25 age-group triathletes, and six professional triathletes. The Mālama Club will comprise a total of 17 individuals.
“We have an extraordinary group of athletes serving as IRONMAN Foundation Ambassadors this season,” said Sarah Hartmann, Executive Director of the IRONMAN Foundation. “This includes seven special age-group Ambassadors who will specifically spearhead three programs: the Gold Star Initiative military program, the IRONAID program for athletes in the healthcare industry, and the IRONMAN University coaching program, linking our athletes to IRONMAN U programming and support.”
Last season, with support of IRONMAN Foundation Ambassadors, the IRONMAN Foundation provided $1.8 million in grant funding to more than 1,500 local, regional, national, and global nonprofit initiatives throughout IRONMAN®, IRONMAN® 70.3®, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series® communities. In addition, nearly 1,600 volunteers provided hands-on help in IRONMAN race communities through various service projects. Each service project benefits local nonprofit partner organizations, powerfully linking athletes to the local community and leaving a positive legacy behind long after race day. This has included the Bike for a Kid pop-up service project, an IRONMAN Foundation and FLO Cycling program, which will expand its impact this year through the support of PLAYTRI, the Official Triathlon Store of IRONMAN. A full list of 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Service projects can be found here.
“Athletes, TriClubs, volunteers, and their supporters are invited to join us at IRONMAN and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events throughout the season as we connect with our local race communities for unique, life-changing opportunities,” Hartmann continued. “When we unite for a common purpose – changing lives through sport – we leave our IRONMAN legacy behind long after race day.”
2020 IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Team
IRONMAN Foundation Ambassadors have been chosen for their outstanding involvement in each of their own communities and they will continue to exemplify what it means to ‘Race for More’ by focusing their efforts on the IRONMAN Foundation’s 27 giveback initiatives this season. Leading the 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador team as IRONMAN Team Captain will be the “Voice of IRONMAN” Mike Reilly and leading as Rock This Town Ambassador Captain will be Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series emcee Ann Wessling.
In addition, all six professional triathletes from last season will be returning for 2020.
Mirinda Carfrae, a three-time IRONMAN World Champion, along with husband Timothy O’Donnell, a multi-year IRONMAN World Championship top-10 finisher who placed second at the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship. Additional pro triathletes are IRONMAN and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Triathlete, eight-time IRONMAN World Champion, and the “The Queen of Kona” Paula Newby-Fraser. She is joined by former Olympic athlete, and USA Triathlon Olympic/ITU Athlete of the Year, pro triathlete Sarah True along with 2016 and 2017 IRONMAN® 70.3® Africa Champion and fourth-place finisher at the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship Ben Hoffman. Finally, Matt Russell, who made a remarkable comeback and placed sixth at the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship and won 2019 IRONMAN Lake Placid, rounds out the pro triathlete ambassadors.
This year’s ambassador team also showcases a variety of impactful age-group athletes.
Shannon Spake is a multiple IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon finisher and a veteran sports broadcaster. After spending 10 years at ESPN, Shannon joined FOX Sports in July 2016 as a three-sport star, covering NASCAR, college football, college basketball, and the NFL. In 2019, she was named host of FOX NASCAR’s race coverage, handling all anchor duties for the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY SERIES races and prerace shows. Most recently, Shannon voiced the role of “Shannon Spokes” in Disney Pixar’s Cars 3. Despite being diagnosed with scoliosis as a child and undergoing back surgery at thirteen, she swam competitively through high school and college and has been committed to staying active ever since.
Sebastien Bellin is a former professional basketball player who has played for the Belgian national basketball team. In 2016, Bellin was seriously injured Brussels Bombing — Sebastien’s photo from the aftermath of the tragedy quickly circulated the world. Since that tragic day, Sebastien has been committed to a journey of overcoming his new physical ailments while inspiring others to live every day to the fullest and helping those who have endured similar experiences. Sebastien hopes to one day finish a full-distance IRONMAN triathlon and ultimately the IRONMAN World Championship. As a launching point for these goals, Sebastien participated in the 2019 Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas having finished both the 5K and the half marathon over the course of the weekend.
Nashville singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ryan Kinder is one of country music’s most promising up-and-comers. Ryan was training for an IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon with his close friend, Kyle Wagley, who was an Apache pilot in the Army. Sadly, Kyle was diagnosed with cancer and passed away before having the chance to compete. Since Kyle’s passing, Ryan has raced in triathlons, marathons, and other competitions in Kyle’s honor—along with his wife, Heather Kinder, a former Tennessee Titans Cheerleader, Mrs. Tennessee America and member of the 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Team. In 2019, Ryan completed his first full-distance IRONMAN triathlon at IRONMAN Florida, where he also performed an exclusive “Concert for Relief” to support Hurricane Michael Recovery. Through their charity, Kinder’s Kids, Ryan and Heather donated clothes and toys to local residents and also participated in the IRONMAN Foundation’s hands-on community rebuilding project.
Mike Ergo is a Marine Corps veteran who has completed several tours in Iraq. He took part in the heavy urban combat during the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. While there, 29 of his battalion brothers lost their lives. Once he returned to the United States, Mike self-medicated to numb the pain. After being diagnosed with PTSD, Mike turned to triathlon as a healthy recovery tool. During each event, Mike wears the names of his fallen Marine Corps brothers on his race kit and dedicates the races to their memories and families. Last year, Mike piloted an IRONMAN Foundation program called the Gold Star Initiative. This initiative gives veterans and active duty service members the chance to team up and honor Gold Star Families by carrying an American flag during the run portion of select IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events, which is presented to a local Gold Star Family at the finish line. He will continue to lead the program in 2020 with fellow ambassador and Gold Star Mother, Lisa Anderson.
At age 40, Derek Fitzgerald became the first American heart transplant recipient to complete a full-distance IRONMAN race. Before that, he spent a decade battling cancer and heart failure as he suffered from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After his first IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon, he co-founded the Tin Man Endurance Team consisting exclusively of heart transplant recipients. He also created a new foundation called The Recycledman Foundation whose mission is to educate and inspire supporters of advancements in cancer research, heart health, and organ donation. As an entrepreneur and technologist, Derek has spent over 15 years creating successful tech companies that specialize in building solutions for pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations.
For a full list of the 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Team click here.
2020 IRONMAN Foundation Mālama Club
In 2018, the IRONMAN Foundation expanded its ambassador program by launching the Mālama Club, a team of IRONMAN athletes who are ardent supporters of the IRONMAN Foundation’s mission of creating positive, tangible change in race communities, and embody the spirit of the Hawaiian word Mālama, meaning to “take care of, preserve and protect.”
Members of the Mālama Club include Darrell Freeman and Dr. Timothy Deer, who have both raced in support of the IRONMAN Foundation for many seasons. This year, Dr. Deer will continue to help lead the IRONAID program. Darrell is a celebrated entrepreneur and business leader in the Nashville area and leads the Freeman Family Foundation. The newest addition to the Mālama Club is Todd Behringer, Founder and CEO of Bicycle World Texas in Waco, Texas. Todd is a longtime supporter of the IRONMAN Foundation and raced at the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship in support of its programs. For a full list of the 2020 IRONMAN Foundation Mālama Club click here.
For more information on the IRONMAN Foundation and to register as a volunteer for the 2020 IRONMAN Foundation service projects, visit www.ironmanfoundation.org/service-projects. For media related inquiries, please contact [email protected].
About the IRONMAN Foundation
The IRONMAN Foundation creates positive, tangible change in race communities by engaging athletes and volunteers to participate in programs that demonstrate service through sport and commitment to community. Since 2003, over $50,000,000 has been provided through giveback programs led by the IRONMAN Foundation to more than 9,500 local, regional, national and global nonprofit initiatives. Through these partnerships, IRONMAN and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series participants are powerfully linked to the community and together help leave a positive legacy behind in race communities long after event day. For more information on IRONMAN Foundation programs, including Team IMF, Community Fund, Rock This Town®, Your Journey Your Cause, and Women For Tri, visit www.ironmanfoundation.org.
About The IRONMAN Group
As part of Wanda Sports Group, The IRONMAN Group operates a global portfolio of events that includes the IRONMAN® Triathlon Series, the IRONMAN® 70.3® Triathlon Series, 5150™ Triathlon Series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series®, IRONKIDS®, ITU World Triathlon Series, premier running events including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon™ and The Sun-Herald City2Surf® presented by Westpac, Ultra-Trail® World Tour events including Tarawera Ultra and Ultra-Trail Australia™, mountain bike races including the Absa Cape Epic®, road cycling events, and other multisport races. The IRONMAN Group is the largest operator of mass participation sports in the world and provides more than a million participants annually the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s vast offerings. Since the inception of the iconic IRONMAN® brand and its first event in 1978, athletes have proven that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE® by crossing finish lines around the world. Beginning as a single race, The IRONMAN Group has grown to become a global sensation with more than 235 events across 55+ countries. For more information, visit www.ironman.com.
About Wanda Sports Group
Wanda Sports Group (Nasdaq: WSG) is a leading global sports events, media and marketing platform with a mission to unite people in sports and enable athletes and fans to live their passions and dreams. Through our businesses, including Infront and The IRONMAN Group, we have significant intellectual property rights, long-term relationships and broad execution capabilities, enabling us to deliver unrivalled sports event experiences, creating access to engaging content and building inclusive communities. We offer a comprehensive array of events, marketing and media services through three primary segments: Mass Participation, Spectator Sports and Digital, Production, Sports Solutions (DPSS). Our full-service platform creates value for our partners and clients as well as other stakeholders in the sports ecosystem, from rights owners, to brands and advertisers, and to fans and athletes. Headquartered in Beijing, China, Wanda Sports Group has more than 60 offices and 1,600 employees around the world.