Photo | Courtesy Mobile Bar Foundation
The 16.7-mile cycle portion of Tri the Gulf includes a jaunt over the Dauphin Island Bridge.
The Mobile Bar Foundation is gearing up for what it hopes will be another successful year for its primary charitable fundraiser, Tri the Gulf, a sprint triathlon set on scenic Dauphin Island Saturday, Oct. 20.
The third annual Tri the Gulf will take participants throughout the barrier island beginning with a 600-yard swim into the Gulf from the Isle Dauphine Golf Club. Racers will then transition to bicycles for a 16.7-mile ride across most of the barrier island and over the Dauphin Island Bridge, and, finally, finish the event with a 3.25-mile run course.
A sprint triathlon isn’t as grueling as a traditional triathlon, but Tri the Gulf has been well attended in the past. A USA Triathlon-sanctioned event, Tri the Gulf is listed on several national registries, and as a result has attracted participants from throughout the U.S.
In 2016, more than 300 participants came together on Dauphin Island for the inaugural event, which generated more than $71,000. Last year, 254 people participated, and the foundation raised roughly $66,000, which was distributed via grants to a number of community organizations.
While a significant portion of those proceeds have come from registration fees, there are more than 40 local sponsors that make the event possible, including the Mobile Sports Authority and this year’s presenting sponsor, Infirmary Health Systems Inc.
This year’s race will have seven separate categories based on age, skill level, size and experience, and awards will be presented to the top three finishers in each division.
The foundation acts as the charitable arm of the Mobile Bar Association, and Tri the Gulf has been its most successful fundraising endeavor by far. According to President Bryan Comber, 80 cents of every dollar collected goes to organizations “with a nexus to the legal community.”
Some of the organizations that have benefited in the past include Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama, the South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program, Boys & Girls Club of South Alabama, the Child Advocacy Center of Mobile, Legal Services Alabama and the Drug Education Council, among others.
By distributing the proceeds through a grant system, Comer said, the foundation is able to make a tangible impact in the community by addressing the specific needs of those organizations.
“The money we’re raising is having a direct impact on the community, particularly for those who might not be able to afford legal assistance or representation,” Comer said. “For instance, Legal Services Alabama didn’t have computers for some of the lawyers who were having to go to Monroe County to represent people in foreclosure cases, and we were able to provide those.”
When the 2008 financial crisis made the foundation’s mission challenging, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis floated the idea of hosting a triathlon fundraiser in 2016. A triathlete himself, Davis knew there was an interest and knew of other successful races it could be modeled after.
“There was not a triathlon in Mobile County proper, so we embarked on this three years ago,” Davis recalled. “So far, it has been very successful, and we’ve been able to ramp up the charitable giving of the foundation significantly over the last two years.”
More than 200 racers from at least 13 states have already signed up for this year’s event. The deadline to register will continue through 8 a.m., Oct. 15, at $100 for individuals and $210 for relay teams. Additional fees are applied for registrations submitted after that cutoff date.
Juan Ortega, an attorney in Mobile and former member of the Mobile Bar Association’s executive committee, has helped organize Tri the Gulf since it started. He told Lagniappe organizers are also continuing to look for volunteers, a crucial part of any large event.
While certified lifeguards, rescue crews, U.S. Coast Guard swimmers and the Mobile County Sheriff’s Flotilla will be on hand for the event, Ortega said volunteers are still needed before, during and after the race itself. Organizers are hoping to round up at least 200 by race day.
“Even though this is a relatively short distance, there’s a lot of ground to cover because this isn’t around a quarter-mile track. Geographically, we’re kind of stationed on at least on half the island at some points,” Ortega said. “We’ve got to have people in the water monitoring the swimmers or out watching to make sure no one has fallen or has gotten hurt [on the bike and run courses].”
Volunteers and racers can register or find more information at trithegulf.racesonline.com.
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