Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Great Cherie Gruenfeld

Cherie Gruenfeld nabbed third in the 60-64 age group this year in Kona. A living example that our sport is the real fountain of youth, Cherie is quite simply, hot. With a perfect body this super-fit-looks-not-even-thirty-seven-year-old has won her age group in Kona half a dozen times. This year marked her thirteenth Ironman Championship race - despite having fractured three ribs a few weeks ago.

Gruenfeld was the vice president at the Artificial Intelligence Corporation, a vision technology-oriented company, and a former special education teacher. With the encouragement of her novelist/triathlete husband Lee Gruenfeld, she graduated from short triathlons to the Ironman distance in 1992, earning an age group ninth in her Ironman Hawaii debut that year.

If you walked down the cereal aisle in the grocery store in 2001, you probably saw her on a Wheaties Energy Crunch box. That honor befell Gruenfeld, who was chosen among some 10,000 applicants, to become one of the six winners of Wheaties’ inaugural "Search for Everyday Champions" contest.

Triathlon impacted Cherie’s life in a way that propelled her to share her experience with others. She founded the Exceeding Expectations program, which uses the sport of triathlon to re-direct the lives of at-risk inner city kids in San Bernardino, California. She raises funds to pay for entry fees, bikes, equipment and runs a training program for the kids. Cherie has seen triathlon work its magic in the kids. “Their self-esteem is so high," she said. “Where before they were average students, now they're leaders in their classrooms…It's fun."

One thing that Cherie was unprepared for was the pressure of keeping Exceeding Expectations funded. She thought she'd be spending most of her time with the kids, doing one-on-one training and arranging for them to participate in local triathlon and running events. Unfortunately, it turned out that the majority of her time has been taken up trying to raise money for bikes, shoes, race entry fees, transportation and training supplies. The program is funded entirely by private contributions from generous people such as yourselves.

So her goal for the first half of 2005 is to get enough money into the program to allow her to back off the fundraising a little and spend more time directly with the kids. The target is $10,000 and the vehicle is a program set up by the Ironman organization in conjunction with the Janus Foundation and As an athlete competing in an Ironman triathlon in Coeur d'Alene next summer, Cherie will be able to collect contributions on-line, and she is eligible for some matching money from Janus. For the first time, contributors will be able to use credit cards to make donations, and we're hoping that this kind of convenience will make it easier for people to donate.

The easiest way is to use the website Janus set up for the program, which will allow you to use a credit card (Visa, MasterCard or AmEx). It's tax deductable and you can get there by clicking on this link:

To learn a little about Exceeding Expectations and see some photos of the kids racing in recent triathlons, please visit Cherie's Website: