When Kim Carson, head coach of the Iowa Core Elite track team, received a text message from the team’s largest sponsor, she was determined not to let her kids down.
The company said they would no longer be able to provide the $11,000 they had promised the team to travel to the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Baltimore. The team has 12 athletes who qualified to race in the event that the ICE team had been preparing for all year. Suddenly everything was up in the air less than five days before they were scheduled to depart.
A local reporter caught wind of the story and that’s when the Hy-Vee Triathlon and others in the community stepped in.
Representatives from the Hy-Vee Triathlon met Carson and the 12 athletes at Des Moines No. 2 Friday to announce that Hy-Vee would provide a chartered bus for the trip, as well as a cash donation and backpacks filled with a water bottle, T-shirt, racing jersey and other gear.
“We’re happy to help,” says Darin Hirl, Hy-Vee director of event marketing. “After they had the rug pulled out from under them, we felt like we had to do something.”
For Carson, the news could not have come at a better time.
“After I heard [the sponsor] was backing out, I looked at the balance of a couple credit cards and told myself, we can still do this,” she says.
Carson refused to throw in the towel. Riding on a bus was out of the question, but perhaps they could swing three vans. When they arrived, rather than having two athletes in each hotel room, they could double down and put four people together. She swiped her card.
Thanks to Hy-Vee, Carson will be able to pay off the debt as soon as the bills come in. Now the focus has shifted from counting pennies to counting the hours until the team leaves this weekend for the trip they worked so hard to go on.
“I am totally stress-free and so excited and the kids are, too. Look at their smiles and listen to them giggling,” Carson said as she looked at the young athletes opening their backpacks.”
Oksana Covey, a 15-year-old first-year member of the ICE team, says the event is important for a young track athlete’s development. A who’s who of college track coaches will be watching from the stands.
“This is a really big deal,” Covey says. “This will be the highest level of competition I’ve ever seen and it gives us really good experience.”
Carson, a juvenile probation officer and the mother of a young daughter battling leukemia, says some days can be really tough. The exposure the young athletes will receive to help their futures is why the trip is so important and why she was determined to see it through.
“They are a pick-me-up every day I work with them,” she says. “Hy-Vee has always supported kids and athletics. I can’t believe how the community came together for this.”
<PHOTO> Darin Hirl, on the right, presents the Hy-Vee Triathlon backpacks filled with goodies to the members of the Iowa Core Elite track team as Kim Carson, center, looks on. Mike Kueny, store director at Des Moines No. 2, is on the far right.