STAMFORD, Conn. -- Kids In Crisis supported Jes D’Andrea when bullies taunted her as a young girl growing up in Stamford. On Sunday, D’Andrea will return the favor to the Cos Cob children’s organization through her passion for fitness.
D’Andrea will race in the Olympic distance event at the KIC It Triathlon in Stamford. The race supports Kids In Crisis, the state’s only organization that provides free, round-the-clock crisis counseling and temporary shelter for infants, children and teens. Readers can support D’Andrea by making a donation through her fundraising page.
D’Andrea knows of Kids In Crisis all too well. As an 8th grader, she turned to the agency to help cope with anxieties caused by bullies. Parents and friends offered support, but hotline volunteers at the 24-hour Kids In Crisis support center provided the comfort D’Andrea craved -- and needed.
“Sometimes I was not sure where to turn,’’ D’Andrea said. “I would be up late at night and I didn’t know what to do. I knew that if I talked through these emotions, that I could get through it and get a little clearer head and a more objective view of what was going on. I’ll never forget what they did for me.”
D’Andrea called the hotline on an as-needed basis for several months. She talked with counselors about her emotional conflicts, and found compassion and wisdom on the other end of the line.
“They were definitely helping me through it,’’ D’Andrea said. “At the end, they’d always say don’t hesitate to call, don’t keep it a secret. They provided great advice.”
Martial arts and fitness also helped D’Andrea sort through her early emotional turmoil. She swam as a youngster for the Darien YMCA program, and also earned a black belt in tae kwon do. In the past few years she has started endurance training, starting with a Tough Mudder race.
“Once I did that, I wanted to better myself,’’ D’Andrea said. “That race kicked my butt. I’ve always been up for challenges. I lost a ton of weight, and every year I have set different goals.”
Last year, D’Andrea competed in six Spartan races and completed her first triathlon, the Mossman Sprint in Norwalk.
She hopes to continue to build her fitness, with plans to complete a 70.3 mile race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run) next year. D’Andrea’s ultimate carrot for her fitness commitment is to finish a 140.6 mile triathlon race in two years.
“Once I just started setting goals, it went from there,’’ said D’Andrea, who teaches karate and also works as a gym teacher at a Stamford preschool.
D’Andrea lives near Cummings Park in Stamford, which is where Sunday’s race starts. She also draws upon her swimming background. Her mother, Amy, is the Assistant Aquatics Director at the Darien Y. “The entire staff has given me a lot of advice about stroke mechanics and keeping my training at a level that it should be,’’ D’Andrea said.
As a teacher at The Dojo martial arts studio in Stamford, D’Andrea warns her students about the impact and dangers of bullying. She also advises children to connect with Kids In Crisis to help them sort through their issues.
“The people at Kids In Crisis are patient and focused on getting you through what you’re going through,’’ she said. “They’re extremely responsive and they help hash out what’s going on. They do a fantastic job of listening and absorbing information and giving an objective opinion of what’s going on. I definitely recommend them.”
Click here for more information about this weekend’s races in the KIC It Triathlon.