The Gift of Achievement – through Activity

Tri 4 Schools is a non-profit organization that uses athletic events as a platform to get kids active and fight childhood obesity.


  • I am helping raise $500 for Madison-based Tri 4 Schools by the end of 2013 to pay for shuttle transportation for kids that otherwise couldn’t get to a Tri 4 Schools event.
  • I am matching the first $250 in donations.
  • You can donate here at my imATHLETE page.

You can learn more about the Tri 4 Schools mission and why I am involved with the organization below. (Spoiler alert: entrepreneurship features prominently!)

Last year at this time, I wrote a post called Gift of the Mentor (a nod to the classic short story The Gift of the Magi). Here was my takeaway:

For me, The Gift of the Mentor comes when the people involved are willing to not only give of themselves but learn from each other.

One of the mentees I have had the chance to learn from is Katie Hensel, a former Epic project manager with a degree in business. I met Katie in 2011 when she came to Madison Entrepreneur Resource, Learning and Innovation Network to be matched with mentors. By November, I was part of the Tri 4 Schools mentor team.

Katie started the non-profit Tri 4 Schools in 2011 with the highly ambitious goal of combating childhood obesity. While these mission statements can be so global as to lack meaning, Katie has demonstrated her ability to work towards achieving massive goals in a systematic way with clear accomplishments.

The first step towards the goal was the creation of kids triathlons and races in the greater Madison area. The event entry fees go back to the area schools where the funds have been spent on a variety of projects, primarily on equipment for recess, physical education classes, and healthy food programs.

What has Tri 4 Schools accomplished? Here is a graphic from the Tri 4 Schools 2013 year-end report. This year, 2,345 kids participated in a Tri 4 Schools event and $49,460 in race entry fees was given to schools for health related programs.


When we first started working with Katie, her mission clearly included getting all kids active – not just attracting kids with active parents or with strong athletic backgrounds. One of the first steps was providing scholarships for kids who couldn’t otherwise afford to participate. Katie has worked hard to ensure that she not only raises those dollars but also that the scholarships are used. You can see above that her efforts are paying off: ~10% of the participants in 2013 were on scholarship. Tri 4 Schools has also provided shuttles for kids without transportation to get to their events. The support I am asking for above will cover the cost for five shuttles, the number needed for one Tri 4 Schools 2014 event.

This year, Katie’s MERLIN mentor team worked with her so that the role we were filling would be taken over by her board of directors. I am excited to say that I will get to continue to help Katie by joining the Tri 4 Schools board in January. While I don’t have experience with the non-profit business model, these organizations encounter many of the same issues in growing any business. One of the interesting challenges for non-profit organizations is funding. Even for successful non-profits, the funds raised generally cover program costs, not the costs build and support the infrastructure to increase efficiency or scale. Nonprofit Quarterly recently ran a piece called Capital, Equity, and Looking at Nonprofits as Enterprises that describes this phenomenon. My goal is to enable Katie’s passion for getting kids active to serve as a basis for a growing and self-sufficient organization.  Katie and the rest of her team have a variety of ideas about how to bridge this “growth gap” and I look forward to sharing some of the strategies and results as Tri 4 Schools implements these efforts. In the meantime, the kids and I thank you for your support!


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