How I’m Teaching My Kids to Give Back

On July 25, Wilton mom Karen Sackowitz and her kids, Noah and Alyssa, will be biking in the CT Challenge Ride to fund cancer survivorship programs. Frequent riders on the Norwalk River Valley Trail, the three will take to the Westport course for what Karen hopes will be a fun and active way for her children to experience the rush of giving back.

Those blue car magnets…

Since 2011, when my family moved to Connecticut, I had noticed the blue and gold magnets on cars touting “CT Challenge.” In July each year, I would see the lawn signs pop up, much like they are doing now, and I’d realize that the organization’s annual bike trek was around the corner. It wasn’t until a normal day at work this spring, however, that I was motivated to sign up.

HealthPrize Technologies is a small company in SoNo for which I oversee corporate communications. One of our vice presidents, John Ragland, is a cofounder of CT Challenge, and he spoke at our weekly staff meeting, urging employees to join the HealthPrize team for the CT Challenge Ride. It was fascinating to hear how John, along with childhood cancer survivor Jeffrey Keith, started CT Challenge in 2004 to address the needs of a growing cancer survivor population. Their goal was to provide a bridge back from the after effects of the harsh treatments needed to save survivors’ lives by focusing on exercise, nutrition, mind-body health, and community-building support programs. In 2012, CT Challenge opened the Center for Survivorship in Fairfield – the first of its kind in the state – as an incubator for best practices in cancer survivorship care.

What struck me in that staff meeting was John’s very simple statement: “Everyone in this room has been touched by cancer.” Decades ago, that may not have been an assumed absolute – some people might have fallen into that category, but not all. Today, it’s not even a question. Personally, I have lost one dear friend to cancer and have three others who thankfully won the battle. My coworkers, I’m sure, could state similar numbers.

A Family Affair

Assuming the ride was for serious bikers only, I asked John if there was room for a mom in less than decent shape who owned a run of the mill hybrid bike (and who did not own any multicolored spandex or shoes that attached to pedals). Not only was there room, I learned, but there were different distance options which made the ride possible for young kids. Lightbulb!

My daughter, Alyssa, was the first to sign on with me. A frequent visitor to my office, she knows most of the HealthPrize staff already, and is a girl who rides her bike everywhere she can, a smile on her face and a bright pink helmet on her head.

“Sure!” Alyssa said, then asked “How far is ten miles?” Once I estimated it in terms of laps around our neighborhood, she nodded confidently. “That will be fun, and for a great cause!”

My 13-year-old son, Noah, was more laid back about it but just as quick to jump in. His tone its normal, preteen chill, he answered the call with “Sure,” followed by a shrug and a smile, “Why not? Sounds fun.”

As a parent, I am like most, pushing for hard work, good grades and maybe (please?) a little clean up around the house. But when my kids display true compassion, I am at my proudest. We have many discussions around the subject:  help when you can, lend a hand, offer kindness – because it’s the right thing to do, and because being fortunate today doesn’t mean you won’t be in someone else’s shoes tomorrow.

On July 25, Noah, Alyssa and I will saddle up, hop on our bikes and ride along the beautiful CT Challenge Ride coastline route to help cancer survivors who need a hand getting back into life. The fantastic promotional video for the Ride says it all: “Challenge me.” We have taken that challenge, and will be giving back with each mile we ride.

Support your Wilton neighbors! To donate to Karen, Noah or Alyssa’s CT Challenge Ride fundraising goals, visit their individual donation pages:

Karen’s page

Noah’s page

Alyssa’s page