Ironhawk Juniors Triathlon Club (IHJ) originated in 2018 from a belief that participation in sports and physical activity can be a great enhancer of an individual’s life. Led by Brad Hildebrandt, the Ironhawk Endurance Outreach Committee first met in January 2018. The Committee was comprised of passionate colleagues and friends who formed the IHJ. They developed a strategy that served the vision of getting people moving, serving those who want to get fit and inspiring those who need uplifting. The goal was to give back to the community in a meaningful and empowering way through coaching and mentoring those who may not have the means to participate in multi-sport activities or who could only imagine doing a triathlon.
Brad’s previous experience as wrestling coach at Skutt Catholic High School and founder of Ironhawk Endurance provided the foundation for IHJ. At Skutt, Brad had developed a template where wrestling was the vehicle to build great young men on and off the mat. Applying this same philosophy to multi-sport, IHJ was grounded in building an inclusive, supportive community, allowing people to achieve more together than alone.
Brad’s vision quickly evolved as he shared his idea with people he encountered. Erin Sullivan, U.S. Master’s Swim Coach and former Kona finisher, challenged Brad to make triathlon accessible to everyone. Regardless if people knew how to swim or ride a bike or if they had access to a pool or bicycle, she knew how important triathlon had been in her life and the barriers that exist to start the sport. Michelle Bandur, KETV Reporter and Ironman, brought to light how bullying happens at all stages of our life. She understands how girls are empowered through sports and the importance of being kind to one another.
The 2018 program provided a free, 12-week training program and triathlon for girls, ages 8-14. IHJ welcomed girls from all parts of the Omaha and Council Bluffs metro area regardless of socioeconomic background. The club provided free bikes, helmets, running shoes, goggles, swimsuits and swim caps to those who did not have them. The IHJ coaches and volunteers taught girls how to ride a bike and how to swim; more importantly, they taught the girls how to be kind, to love themselves and to support each other! Each week, over 200 girls attended practice and learned new skills. The Juniors capped off their training with a triathlon. With the encouragement of their coaches, volunteers, parents and many others, 163 girls participated in the first IHJ Triathlon and proudly crossed the finish line!
IHJ now has an 8 member board that is full of passion for this non-profit and shares a vision to move young people and change lives.