Heights moms unite to raise over $50,000 for local charity triathlon teams honor children with special needs

Megan with Kevin and Anna Mary on their Fifth Birthday

In 2008, Cleveland Heights resident Tania Younkin entered the Cleveland Triathlon to raise funds and awareness for United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland (UCP) in honor of Elsie, her two and a half year old daughter. Elsie, —diagnosed with cerebral palsy and optic nerve atrophy which also leaves her legally blind—receives physical, occupational, and speech therapy at UCP.  Seeing the remarkable strides her daughter has made, Tania wanted to be sure that other physically challenged children could access the same essential and life-changing services regardless of their financial situation. In order do to so, last year she joined Team UCP, a group of families, triathletes, and recreational enthusiasts who unite to raise funds and awareness for UCP. With her best friend Trisha Tyson by her side, completed the grueling race.

Knowing she could make a bigger impact if she worked with others, Tania began recruiting team members right after last year’s event—starting with her husband Andrew Koonce.  She began to talk with neighbors, co-workers, friends and other parents whose children receive services at UCP and the support was inspiring. This spring, Tania joined the committee of Sprint into the Night, a fundraising event to kick off the Triathlon held May 30th at Nighttown. Organized by Shaker Heights resident Megan McMahon and a group of her close friends from the Heights area, the 2nd annual event raised over $21,000 for UCP! 

This year, on August 2, Tania returned to the Cleveland Triathlon, again motivated by the strides Elsie makes each day and committed to again pushing Elsie across the finish line in the run portion of the race. But this year, she came not just with her husband and Trisha, but with more than 60 additional participants—including a dozen Heights residents. Together, Team Elsie far exceeded their initial fundraising goal. 

Megan McMahon also competed in the triathlon this year to honor her children—five-year-old twins Kevin and Anna Mary, both of whom are diagnosed with cerebral palsy and have made great progress while participating in UCP programming for the past three years. Last year, husband Mike finished the Triathlon for Team McMahon while Megan was pregnant with the couple’s fourth child—so in 2009 she was ready to represent the family on race day, and did so while completing her first-ever triathlon!

Megan, Tania, and over 225 others joined together on August 2 in Downtown Cleveland's North Coast Harbor to swim, bike, and run in support of their children and the over 1,000 other children and adults who are impacted by UCP each year. Not only did all Team UCP members cross the finish line, but while doing so they raised over $145,000—with over $50,000 through the efforts of Team Elsie and Team McMahon!  United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland was proud to partner with community members throughout the Heights and all of Northeast Ohio in this amazing and inspirational event.

For more information on Team Elsie, Team McMahon, or United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland, contact (216) 791-8363, ext. 227 or blucas@ucpcleveland.org. To make a donation, visit www.active.com/donate/teamucp09. [eliminate hyperlink underlines for print version]

The mission of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland is to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities.  The not-for-profit organization employs over 200 individuals offering comprehensive children’s services, adult vocational services and adult residential services. Low administrative costs mean that 92 cents of every contributed dollar goes directly to the programs and services offered to children and adults. Please visit www.ucpcleveland.org

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Volume 2, Issue 9, Posted 3:52 PM, 08.17.2009