A classroom of bright-eyed 12- and 13-year-old girls at Riverhead Middle School received a $5,000 donation March 26 from Riverhead Building Supply, which was looking to give back to the community that gave the business its start.
The dozen girls are members of the school’s newly implemented i-tri triathlon program, a nonprofit dedicated to the mental, physical and spiritual empowerment of female adolescents.
The i-tri program, based in East Hampton, is currently active in 10 schools from Montauk to Mastic. Third-generation Riverhead Building Supply owners Tracy Kappenberg and Kevin Goodale visited the school last week to meet some of the girls and present them with the check.
“We’re super-excited and we really wish you guys luck,” said Ms. Kappenberg, a Riverhead resident. “It’s a lot of hard work. I’ll be there cheering you on and to help you guys with this, we wanted to give you $5,000.”
RBS has been supporting i-tri since 2014.
“I immediately loved the idea of it. I thought it was fantastic for the girls and every year when we would donate, I would beg them to come to Riverhead because I knew that Riverhead was going to benefit greatly from this,” Ms. Kappenberg said. “[RBS] is in three states, but we started in Riverhead so the community of Riverhead is very important to us.”
“It means so much,” i-tri founder and executive director Theresa Roden said. “With any new expansion, there’s, of course, a lot of startup costs. We provide everything that the girls need to be successful throughout their journey to the finish line of the triathlon. That includes making sure that there’s a bike for her to ride and train on, a helmet, a uniform to race in, [a] swim cap, goggles … we provide swimsuits to train in.”
I-tri also provides girls who need them with everything from training bras to a pair of sneakers.
The donation will go a long way in helping cover the costs of food at the organization’s nutrition sessions and in paying for many of the above essentials, Ms. Roden said.
Perhaps one of the most expensive and important factors is transportation. Currently, the girls attend Saturday triathlon training sessions at the Brookhaven Aquatic Center, but after school lets out, the girls will prepare for a race at Sag Harbor’s Foster Memorial Beach, commonly known as Long Beach. Hampton Jitney has long been one of the group’s top sponsors, providing a total 170 girls with nearly door-to-door transportation.
“Once school ends, there’s about six practices, so the Jitney will come to each of the schools in the morning, pick up the girls, bring them to practice and then bring them back — but not just drop them off back at school where we know that parents are working,” Ms. Roden said. “They do as close to their bus stops as they can.”
The RBS donation, she said, coupled with the Hampton Jitney sponsorship, will help offset some of these transportation costs.
The girls expressed excitement about and gratitude for the donation.
Jasmine Alvarado, a seventh grader in Riverhead Middle School’s i-tri program, called the donation “inspiring.” She said that because her parents don’t own a car, the provided transportation is a huge help.
Fellow seventh grader Samantha Davis said, “[It] means a lot because I know that Riverhead Building Supply is a big organization and the fact that they would invest in something like this even though they have nothing to do with anything athletic, it’s really touching.”
i-tri program leader Alyssa Channin, a triathlete herself, started with the group in January 2016. She said the donation means that all girls can participate, regardless of financial factors.
“Our motto from day one is that we would never ever make a commitment to a girl or her family that we could not carry through on,” Ms. Roden said. “This group, because of RBS’s generosity … we can rest assured that every girl will have everything she needs.”
Tearing up, Ms. Kappenberg said that as a female business owner, she knows just how important it is to learn how to lead in this world.
“They’re going to come away with so much self-confidence, teamwork, understanding of how hard work pays off. And I think we can help these girls become leaders in the community,” she said.
To help support i-tri, visit itrigirls.com/donations.