“People do not follow titles, they follow courage. If you will just lead them onto the battlefield, they will follow you.” – Braveheart
The Blazeman Spirit Award was given annually to a participant in the EnduraFit Ironman 70.3 Eagleman who most exemplified the spirit of Jon “Blazeman” Blais. While many were familiar with Jon’s heroic performance in the 2005 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, few were familiar with Jon’s professional life as a special education teacher at the Aseltine School in San Diego, CA. Here, Jon focused his energy on helping kids who were emotionally challenged and learning-disabled. This is also where he became better known as “The Blazeman.” Jon did amazing work with the kids. Through summer recreation programs and outdoor activities, his students learned to overcome obstacles and become stronger through hard work and determination. The Blazeman Spirit Award kept Jon’s memory alive by recognizing an individual who inspires others to become a better person; leads by example; and has a passion for the journey of life.
2013 BSA recipient: Jeff Galvin
Jeff was nominated separately by two friends, Cathy Knittel and Matt Heschel. Cathy wrote “My husband Greg died of ALS complications in February 2013. As I look back on it now, he struggled for over eight years. During all of that time, we were joined in our journey by Jeff who was a former student of Greg’s. Jeff took time out of his busy days and family life to visit at least twice a week. Jeff takes his medical oath very seriously, and yet, the loving humor peeks through and gives us all that needed respite of a laugh or two. When Greg first went on the vent and trach, Jeff brought over a shirt that said “ALS SUCKS!” It was worn until nearly threadbare.”
Jeff is Matt’s running mentor. Matt wrote “I had come to a cross-road in my life where I needed to make some hard decisions.One of them was answered by my decision to get in shape and start running. I consulted with my friend Dr. Jeff, because I knew he was a big runner and had been for some time. He gave me some great advice on the running, but it was while running with him, that he gave me the best advice. He told me that running was really about more than me. He told me it was so much bigger than that. I had become pretty darned selfish with some of the stuff I was going through in my life – I needed to be. But it was through talking with him while running that I was able to move past this selfish stage and make my running ‘mean something’. He made me realize that running FOR something was so much more powerful than running AWAY from something.”
2012 BSA recipient: Stephen Brown
Stephen Brown through his work ethic as an athlete, coach, cancer survivor, mentor, teacher, and motivational speaker to all those he encounters, clearly has the tenets, passion and emotion, that so moved “Blazeman” to establish his “WarOnALS”. Steve lives his life as an example of the ‘can do’ attitude, and never looks back at what might have been but looks forward to every new day, one filled with hip and life’s dreams.
2011 BSA recipient: Jennifer Bornemann
Jennifer was nominated by her twin sister, Lara Mish.Lara wrote “She is currently a Blazeman Warrior having competed in many triathlons (including Ironman LP in ’07) and marathons proudly displaying her Blazeman spirit. To count the lives Jen has touched would be immeasurable in both life and competition. Jen has recently shifted gears in her professional career to serve in uniform for the US Public Health Service. While in her corporate career, she still was able to reach out and help so many with her Board positions, mentoring, volunteering, etc., yet she still wanted to make a difference in the mental health community. To me, making this leap took so much strength and faith on Jen’s part. She has such a gift to better the world and I know she can with this new position in whatever ways possible. This move shows her true Blazeman spirit. In competition, Jen has inspired so many, from helping those start a fitness program to assisting other athletes on course, to encouraging others to follow their Ironman/marathon dreams. She has put in countless hours for the Challenged Athlete Foundation, Team in Training, and American Red Cross as well. I’m lucky, she has inspired me my whole life. Because of her, I try to look at the world around me to see what I can do to improve it, all the while running, swimming, and biking-because I can.”
2010 BSA recipient: April Colescott
We received multiple nominations for April, and it was the one written by her personal training student, Rick Speas that made the connection to the Spirit Award.Rick wrote ” April Colescott is an amazing person and athlete. She possesses the unique ability to challenge individuals to excel in life and to face life’s challenges with courage and a determination to overcome and succeed. I have been one of April’s students at the YMCA for about a year now. I am 48 years old and I am in the best physical condition of my life. She challenges me to do things in her classes that I never dreamed I could accomplish. She instilled in me a self-confidence and I have a try-anything confidence in her. If April tells me to try some exercise, however ridiculous it may seem to me, I will give it my best effort. She helped me to believe that I can do whatever she asks me to try. There is more to April than just her physical ability and incredible understanding of how to get the best out of her students. April’s enthusiasm and energy are contagious. She makes challenging classes fun and exciting. She teaches life lessons in the process of teaching exercise classes. She is an amazing motivator and encourager. She has a tremendous heart for those that have been through or are going through some of life difficulties. She helps people to see beyond their circumstances. She is open about her faith and challenges people to look to God in their lives. April has an incredible love for racing. She counts herself truly honored to be part of a team of unselfish athletes who race because others cannot. The team is made up of individuals from all over the world who have been touched by the horrible disease of ALS and through Jon Blais “The BLAZEMAN” they have discovered the calling and the avenue in which to administer God’s love and His word. I have heard her say, “We give because they need us…we race because they can’t and we fight for FREEDOM from a disease with no cure” Racing on the battlefield (Ironman Course) is an effort to raise awareness of those who have come before and given up their lives and those who will follow. It is the fight for a CURE! April uses her passion for racing, her success in racing and the self discovery she has gained in racing to share with her clients at the YMCA. She shows us through example that YES WE CAN….all we have to do is TRY and we know that she will always be there to help us! One of the things I appreciate so much about April is that she doesn’t want her students to be just the best athlete or student they can be, she wants each of us to be the very best person we can be. She works hard to see that we are moving toward that goal. Over the past year, I have seen many students’ lives changed and inspired by April’s unending compassion, love and motivation. She is a trainer, motivator and friend to all who know her.
2009 BSA recipient: Cris Miller
Cris Miller was nominated by his wife, Tammy. Her nomination read – “Cris always has been an ‘all or nothing’ person. He has participated in several marathons, so when he told me that he was going to start training for a triathlon, I wasn’t surprised. He wanted to puch himself harder. Cris in not your normal triathlete, he is built more like a linebacker. Anytime someone hears that he has participated in triathlon, it’s always the same question – you? His response is why not me.
In the spring of 2006, Cris competed in Ironman Florida. He was pleased with his finish, but a phone call changed his life and out family’s forever. Several years ago, there had been a bone marrow drive for people to become donors. Cris without telling anyone went to the drive. Not too long after Ironman Florida, Cris received a call from the National Bone Marrow program. He was a perfect match for an individual who would die without Cris’ marrow. He didn’t think twice, just asked when and where. He has selflessness about him when others need help, he wants to help. He had to be hospitalized and the harvest was a very painful procedure. He had to take a week off to recover from the procedure but then started training for Ironman Florida in November.
Anyone who is involved with someone training for a triathlon knows how much time it takes from your everyday schedule. Even when Cris is training, he makes time for his children. He coaches out children’s sport teams. He assists with out son’s Boy Scout troop. He volunteers at loacal races and charities.
Cris becoming a triathlete has become a family event. Our children are his swim-bike-run partners. Since his first triathlon we have traveled to Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia. In West Virginia, he took first place for his class the Clydesdales. His next stop is Maryland.”
2008 BSA recipient: Mike Lahey
Mike Lahey was nominated by his friend, Jay DeBerardinis. His nomination reads – “Mike Lahey is a five feet six inch tall 100mph ball of positive ‘yes you can’ attitude. Being built like a wrestler just means to him that 650cm wheels were invented for his small framed tri bike.
For several years now, Mike has been channeling his energy and enthusiasm for triathlon in Team in Training. Mike is not only a talented and competitive triathlete, he also coaches the Eastern Shore Triathlon Team to very successful fundraising and athletic achievement. His sparkling personality and contaigous excitement have drawn people to the sport of triathlon and the LLS who may never have dared to venture into the world of multi-sport.
In conjunction with his work with TNT, Mike has been a central organizer for golf tournaments, cycling time trials, and just this past May, the Inaugural Nanticoke River Swim and Triathlon to benefit 5 charities. Two hundred and twenty athletes participated in an incredible event inspired by friend and YMCA Masters swimmer Nancy Sterling, who has been battling ALS for two years. Mike brought the energy and ‘yes you can’ to a group of volunteers from 5 non-profits to pull off a fantastic event. Mike was the glue to focus a diverse group of volunteers. He’s great with the
details but greater is his gift for getting others to step out and go places they would not normally go alone.
Mike eptiomizes the Braveheart quote about titles and courage. He could care less about rank and status. Rather, he gets satisifaction from watching his friends pull off a successful golf tournament or triathlon for charity that few thought was possible. He’ll crack a beer with you to celebrate when it’s over, just don’t toast him because he wants everyone else to get the credit.
As Jon Blais said, appreciate all the little things in life…it’s the underdo who overcomes obstacles…and is still doing it. Mike teaches us to regard challenges and obstacles as just stuff in the way of the finish line. No big deal, just suck it up and block them out of the way. He drives people to raise money for important charities that save lives…he shows people how to believe in themselves, he trains to achieve his own personal best and he’s even better at showing others how to do it.”
2007 BSA recipient: Andrew Urion
Andrew Urion was nominated by his wife, Alexis. Her nomination reads – When we met in 2001, all Andrew talked about was completing a triathlon. He had a solid running background but didn’t own a bike and couldn’t swim. In 2002 he completed his first sprint triathlon. A mere two years later, he finished Ironman Florida and was hooked.Almost exactly two months after completing that first Ironman, Andrew suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for four days. MRIs showed scar tissue on his brain indicative of two prior strokes that he had no knowledge of suffering. Test after test was performed to determine how someone so young and healthy could suffer three strokes, but all tests were inconclusive. We still do not know why it happened… or if it could happen again.Although I hated running with a passion, I signed up immediately for the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon through Train To End Stroke. Throughout 3.5 months of training, Andrew was my biggest cheerleader. Two days before the race, Andrew surprised me by showing me his registration confirmation; he had registered for the marathon without telling me – and without training – and ran by my side the whole 26.2 miles.A week later, he completed his second consecutive Eagleman race, again without training. Missing Eagleman that year simply was not an option. Andrew’s profession is personal trainer, and he recently completed a triathlon coaching certification. He is dedicated to the sport and to his clients, encouraging each of them to be their very best.
He is my hero.