Pine View Math Teacher, Colby Neilson, Organizing Volunteers for his 12th IRONMAN Event
By Lisa Beck, Harmony Public Involvement
It was during the “Great Recession” when Colby Neilson, a math teacher at Pine View High School, and his friends were training for and participating in sprint and 70.3 triathlons. Then they had the crazy idea to host a race in St. George. They talked to an interested friend, Darren Brooks, and Kevin Lewis, who was the Director of the Office of Sports & Outdoor Rec for Washington County at the time, and the idea took off. From visiting other races, working with local governments and IRONMAN, the framework began to take shape, and the first race which was a full triathlon was held in St. George in 2010. Jeff Gardner, Colby’s brother-in-law, was the Race Director and Colby took on the responsibility of Volunteer Coordinator, a position he has held for the past 11 events.
During September 11-18, the Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships will be coming to St. George! This will be the biggest event for which Colby has organized the volunteer effort with over 5,500 people needed to help the event be successful. It will be his twelfth event, and he is looking forward to it. “I enjoy being part of it. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to help others achieve their life goals,” said Colby. “It’s a great atmosphere. There’s a lot of different areas to be involved in and witness these great athletes.”
During IRONMAN events each May, citizens have become accustomed to needing about 2,200 volunteers. But the World Championship is two races. The women will race on Friday, and the men will race on Saturday. There’s 6,000 athletes competing, several events leading up to the races for the community to enjoy, and lots of logistics to get everyone where they need to be. This will require big participation from the community.
Is Colby worried about getting the larger number of volunteers? “Nah, people in this community have performed well since we started the race in 2010. I’ve found over the years people like to serve and most people like to be helpful. We have had lots of local volunteers and also some groups from the Salt Lake and Vegas areas and communities in between,” commented Colby. “However, I do feel anxiety as we get closer and closer waiting for people to sign-up wondering if we will be able to make it happen. This year is no exception. We are in dire need of volunteers.”
Football teams, cross country teams, cheerleaders, church groups, community clubs and other clubs volunteer and are able to participate in the IRONMAN Foundation. According to Colby, IRONMAN has a non-profit foundation specifically designed to benefit volunteer groups and their communities. The volunteer groups can fill out an application showing nonprofit status, how the funds will be used and IRONMAN Foundation will donate to their cause.The IRONMAN Foundation will divide up a lump sum of money between the groups who serve based on their effort and involvement.
”It’s very simple. It’s an incentive for any group. Some groups use the funds to help others, like donating school supplies to underprivileged kids. A lot of people get involved to get a little money for their cause or to help others, “ said Colby.
An army of volunteers will be the key to pulling off another successful race. Volunteers get to be part of the exciting triathlon atmosphere, are given an event t-shirt and enjoy an ‘Epic Volunteer Party’ on Monday, September 20 complete with dinner, entertainment and prizes.
Colby is encouraging everyone to get involved. “Come and join us in making the 70.3 World Championships the best the world has ever seen!”
You can get involved by going to IRONMAN.greaterzion.com/community/volunteer.