Be Adaptable and Resilient — There will always be ups and down, challenges and successes. Ride the waves, stay focused and don’t lose sight of your why.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Keri Serota. Keri serves as the Executive Director and cofounder of Dare2tri. She is a member of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors and the Move United Board of Directors and serves as the Vice-Chair of the USAT National Paratriathlon Committee. She holds a USA Triathlon Level II coaching certification and is a USAT Certified Race Director.
Keri is dedicated to growing the sport of paratriathlon across the country. She has a passion for adaptive sports and her enthusiasm for supporting athletes of all ages, ability, and experience level is unmatched.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
When I was about 12 years old, I told my father that when I grew up I wanted to teach people without legs how to water ski. He did not really see that as being a paying profession and did not think it was a ‘real’ option. I always worked my summer jobs at camps for kids with disabilities and when it came time to go to college we agreed on Kinesiology. In my dad’s mind, I could always get a job as a gym teacher if all else failed. During my senior year at Indiana University I was able to secure an internship at the Salt Lake Paralympic games. I loved that experience and knew that I wanted to be involved in the Paralympic movement moving forward. As a side note, several years later, my parents got to ride on the boat and watch me teach some injured veterans how to waterski. Talk about full circle!
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
Passion, adaptability and a willingness to learn. I don’t think you will find many people in the adaptive sports world who are not passionate or adaptable, they would not last every long if not. These are skills you need inorder to be resilient and work the long hours to make the dreams come true. I also think being a life long learner and not being set in ones ways helps you to grow as a person and a leader. Everyone has something to teach you if you are willing to learn.
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
I would have to say it is how participating in a race can be such a transformative experience. Crossing the finish line is an extraordinary, emotional experience that builds confidence and creates a sense of self-worth that extends into all aspects of life. We often say “the finish line is just the beginning”.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
Above all, Dare2tri is about access. Whether it’s access to an adaptive hand cycle or access to a community-based endurance event. Our goal is to ensure athletes with physical disabilities and visual impairments have the same opportunities as their able-bodied friends and family members. One part of that is providing access to these opportunities ourselves. The other part is educating others (race directors, coaches, etc) about what they can do and how they can ensure all those who want to participate can and have access and are welcomed and accommodated.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
The amazing community of athletes, volunteers, coaches and donors that participate and support Dare2tri. It is the true sense of community!
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
Dare2tri’s first intern, the year we got started was a college student who was an above the knee amputee due to cancer. She was an athlete prior to losing her leg but never really found her thing post amputation. She found Dare2tri, applied for an internship and I told her she could have the internship but she also had to do a tri that summer. She did not really hesitate despite not having biked or run since losing her leg. She went on to complete her first tri that summer and is now a two time Paralympic bronze medalist and world champion.
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?
- Volunteering as a sighted guide (someone who swims, bikes, and/or runs with a person who is visually impaired).
- Vocalizing/advocating for individuals with disabilities and their participation in community events.
- Not taking anything for granted. You have a body and are able to move so do it! Live a healthy, active life.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Build the right team — I CoFounded the organization with my best friends and we had a shared passion. We all have different skills and talents and were able to compliment one another.
- Be Adaptable and Resilient — There will always be ups and down, challenges and successes. Ride the waves, stay focused and don’t lose sight of your why.
- Network and Outreach — never think you know it all. Everyone has something to teach you. Be willing to listen and truly hear others, you never know what you can learn.
- Develop a tough skin — following your passion is not always easy and not everyone will view your passion and enthusiasm the same way. Don’t let others drag you down.
- Have fun! When it stops being fun you should stop doing it. LIfe is short, spend time doing what makes you happy and brings you joy.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
I think we simply did what we do best, we adapted during that time. We are not strangers to having to think outside the box and that is just what we did. We expanded our community nationally during the pandemic and now that we are back in person we are continuing to keep our virtual programs as we want to make sure that we are accessible to all.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
Reflection is always helpful. Talking about it, analyzing it and coming up with a plan to address the issue. Need to keep moving forward and not get stuck in a failure or setback. Often times they lead us down greater paths than we would have found otherwise.
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
On instagram, Facebook and www.dare2tri.org
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.