Local Triathlete Mentors Young Special Olympians
Kyle McChesney is bringing honor to Central New Jersey and helping a generation of students with disabilities prepare to compete in Special Olympics. McChesney recently won first place in his age group in the “One More Tri”, a triathlon competition held last month to raise money for Special Olympics of New Jersey. He generated $300 in sponsor donations for the Lawrenceville-based organization, which raised more than $55,000 during the event.
A graduate of Northern Burlington High School, McChesney, 30, works in the maintenance department at the Y.A.L.E. School, a private school that serves students with autism and other disabilities. In his free time, he trains for and competes in triathlon competitions, one of the most grueling and difficult tests of athletic stamina and ability. The event requires swimming, then biking, then running.
“It’s a very individual sport. It’s all about you and time,” McChesney explained. For six years, the Trenton native has steadily improved his triathlon times, an obsession he developed while living in Hawaii for four years.
McChesney works with several Y.A.L.E. School students who came to cheer his victory last month. “I wanted to raise awareness and donations for Special Olympics and give our kids an opportunity to see what triathlon is all about,” he explained.
But his long-term goal is to do more than raise awareness. He hopes to mentor these students and introduce them to the sport.
“Triathlon is great for students with developmental disabilities because it helps them focus,” McChesney said. “They benefit from learning the mechanics of each phase of the race and to follow directions,” he said, adding, “You need to eat right and exercise daily.”
McChesney was encouraged to support the students’ athletic endeavors by Deb Snyder, Physical Education teacher at the Y.A.L.E. School.
“Sports and athletics is a venue where kids with disabilities can be successful among their peers,” said Snyder, a recognized leader in the field. She was honored in 2011 by Special Olympics New Jersey with their Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding, tireless efforts on behalf of children with disabilities in the region.
McChesney and Snyder have set their sights on 2014, when the Special Olympics National Summer Games will be held in New Jersey, and will include a triathlon event for the first time, as a demonstration sport. The pair hopes to spend the next year recruiting, training and mentoring Y.A.L.E. School students with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD and other disabilities to prepare them to participate in the event.
“The Y.A.L.E. School has fielded students in numerous Special Olympics events for 22 years, but triathlon offers an entirely new challenge,” said Snyder. “With Kyle as a mentor, I know our students are up to it.”
Since 1976, the Y.A.L.E. School (Young Adult Learning Experience) has been providing a positive approach to learning for students with disabilities 3 to 21 years of age, who need a specialized setting in order to benefit from education. At eight campuses throughout southern and central New Jersey, including a campus at the Mansfield Township Elementary School, the Y.A.L.E. School delivers evidence-based special education services for students with social, emotional, neurological, behavioral and learning disabilities.