Berthoud’s Rhea Denney to compete in Boulder Triathlon

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Berthoud area resident Rhea Denney figured she’d raise more nonprofit money running, biking and swimming if she’d double her distance in her next triathlon.

Berthoud area resident Rhea Denney participates in the 2015 Warrior Dash Colorado triathlon and is getting ready for the Boulder Sunset Sprint Triathlon on Aug. 26. She is fundraising for the J.O.S.H program.

Denney’s caveat: her supporters had to exceed the $1,000 in donations she sought to participate in the Boulder Sunset Sprint Triathlon on Aug. 26.

So far Denney has generated $1,650, so she’s competing in the full Olympic distance of a one-mile swim, a 27-mile bike ride and a six-mile run, a first for her.

“I always wanted to do the big distance,” Denney said. “But doubling everything is tough.”

Since 2006 Denney has participated in five sprint triathlons and one Olympic relay, going for shorter distances in her races — the sprint distance is a ½-mile swim, a 14-mile bike ride and a three-mile run.

But this time Denney wanted to raise money for J.O.S.H., or Journey of Strength and Hope, a nonprofit she helped found late last year following the suicide of her stepson, Joshua Francis, who was 15 at the time and a sophomore at Berthoud High School. Denney and J.J. Francis, her husband and Joshua’s father, along with several other community members, created the organization to empower middle and high school students to reach their goals, while also helping them develop self-confidence and optimism for their futures and learn how to show respect for others. Her fundraiser is called Tri for J.O.S.H.

“It’s an organization they can belong to with no pretense,” said Denney, who serves on the board for J.O.S.H.

The students are encouraged to become warriors through physical fitness, arts and crafts, writing, music, and their schoolwork. Each Wednesday as many as 25 students meet at the Berthoud Athletic Club (BAC), using the donated space to do a warm-up and a workout, selecting from cardio, boxing and self-defense, and weight lifting. They engage in group-led instruction and individual exercises.

“It helps them channel the energy that they have, whether it’s good or bad. It gives them a sense of self-worth,” Denney said.

Denney leads the cardio instruction, and Scott Crossen, a founder who came up with the original idea for J.O.S.H. and a boxing instructor at the BAC, provides the boxing and self-defense instruction.

“They are getting that sense of belonging,” Denney said. “They are doing things that they normally wouldn’t do, like throwing on a set of boxing gloves or running on a treadmill.”

The students meet every other Sunday to participate in a variety of activities, such as yoga or painting, and to hear from guest speakers on topics like the police K-9 unit.

“It’s safe,” Denney said. “There are no expectations. They just have to show up and be themselves.”

Denney’s Tri for J.O.S.H. is the first large fundraiser for the organization, which is mainly supported by donations. The Boulder triathlon encourages participants to raise money for a nonprofit they name, and they can create an online fundraising page on the BBSC Endurance Sports (BBSC refers to Bold Beautiful Scenic Courses), a producer of triathlons in Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

“Her commitment to the program’s goal of helping youth improve their lives has been steadfast,” Crossen said. “That Rhea chose the Boulder triathlon as a means to raise money for J.O.S.H. is but another example of her unwavering commitment to the success of the J.O.S.H. program. I will add, not only does Rhea demonstrate heart for J.O.S.H., Rhea shows a warrior’s heart in her athletic endeavors, and warriors are what J.O.S.H. is all about.”

Denney will use what she raises for program supplies and upkeep of the organization, outings for the students and merchandise purchases, such as T-shirts, to sell for additional fundraising efforts.

“We’ve been operating pretty well, but it would be nice to have additional funds to do additional activities,” Denney said.

Doing the fundraiser gives Denney a goal, which is to finish the race, she said.

“It’s just preparing for a pretty amazing event when you get there,” Denney said. “It’s proving to yourself you can do it.”

Denney’s preparations include two hours of exercise a day, doing two of the three triathlon activities and taking off one day a week.

“It’s really important to be physically and mentally prepared, so I can have a good time,” Denney said. “When you work so hard for something, you don’t want to be tired and sore. You want to look back and say it was a good experience.”

Doing the race is empowering, just as J.O.S.H is for the students who participate in the group, she commented.“There’s a tremendous amount of empowerment that you’ve done this for yourself and you’ve worked hard and accomplished it.”

To donate to the fundraiser, visit https://www.flatironsevents.com/members/fundraising?id=28674#.WYTaglGQzIV. Those interested in donating supplies, presenting a program, or volunteering at a J.O.S.H. meeting can contact Scott Crossen at 303-775-1290 or J.J. Francis at 970-818-1290. Monetary donations can be given at www.youcaring.com/joshjourneyofstrengthandhope-721352. For more information about J.O.S.H., visit www.facebook.com/groups/JourneyOfStrengthandHope/

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