My Dare2tri Story: Hailey Danisewicz

If someone would have told the 20-year old version of myself that within the next five years I would become a) a triathlete, b) a Paralympian and c) a silver medalist, I would have been incredulous.  And the fact is, had it not been for one organization that came to me at a one pivotal moment, it’s unlikely that either of those things would have happened.

Five years ago, I was an insecure college student trying to figure out who I was.  Though I had lost my leg to bone cancer six years earlier, I was just then processing that loss, and was feeling very alone and directionless.  Then I found Dare2tri, and my world opened up.  I met Dare2tri co-founder Keri Serota while I was interviewing for an internship in 2011, and in that meeting she persuaded me to sign up for my first triathlon.  With no background in swimming, biking, or running, doing a triathlon felt like the world’s biggest undertaking.  But there was something about it that felt so right.

 

Before I knew it, all of the excuses I had ever made for why I couldn’t pursue sports were torn to shreds.  Dare2tri connected me with people to make my athletic prosthetics, provided me with a bike, and made me become part of a team.  I’m fairly certain that I never would have continued with triathlon had it not been for the community I found within Dare2tri.  Those first few months of learning how to run again was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, and there were so many days when I questioned whether this was really something I wanted to do.  But when those days came along, I relied on the teammates, volunteers, coaches, and friends I had through Dare2tri.  This group of people saw something in me before I was able to see it myself, and their belief in me is what kept me going.  They motivated me to show up, both literally and emotionally.  They inspired me to push myself to my limits and redefine what I was capable of.  They taught me to stop viewing my disability as something to be ashamed of, but rather embrace it as one of the most beautiful parts of me.  I fell in love with the Dare2tri family, and eventually, I fell in love with the sport.

 

After my first season of racing, I realized that triathlon was something I wanted to pursue more seriously.  And when I did, Dare2tri was there to help fund my way to races around the world.  When I decided to leave my job a few years later to pursue my goal of competing in the Rio Paralympics, Dare2tri was there to cover some of my miscellaneous training expenses.  And when I made it to Rio and made my Paralympic debut, my Dare2tri family was there, racing alongside me as teammates, and for cheering me in the grandstand as supporters.  Sharing my silver medal moment with the people who made my journey in the sport possible was one of the most special moments of my life.

Dare2tri is about so much more than the sport of triathlon.  It’s about empowering individuals to be confident in all areas of their lives.  It’s about reclaiming parts of ourselves that our disabilities temporarily took away.  It’s about being there for each other through the moments of doubt, the moments of triumph, and everything in between.

When I look at my life today – the experiences I’ve had, the things I’ve accomplished, the people I call my friends, the person that I’ve become – I know that none of it would have been possible without Dare2tri.  I am forever grateful for all of the ways that Dare2tri has shaped my life, and continue to be inspired by the number of lives that this incredible organization touches.


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