Minter couple starts a new group to help those with disabilities to compete in sports

Scott Turner Key Peninsula residents Deborah and Tom Parker are proud to start a new myTEAM TRIUMPH chapter in the South Sound in honor of their late daughter Tracy Hale, a former athlete and physician's assistant. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Minter residents Deborah and Tom Parker have a mission.

They’ve started a Puget Sound myTEAM TRIUMPH (mTT) chapter in honor of their late daughter, Tracy Hale.

MyTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program created for people with disabilities who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in endurance events such as foot races, swim meets, bike rides, triathlons and other competitive events.

The organization pairs outstanding athletes –– called “Angels” –– with people with disabilities, who are known as “Captains.”

“Tracy loved anything athletic,” Tom Parker said. “In high school she was a pole-vaulter and a sprinter and went to Nationals. When she moved out there to Seattle, she got involved in 5K runs, 10K runs, triathlons. She did the STP (Seattle To Portland bike ride).

“She started the mTT Puget Sound chapter before she passed away in 2013. She died before she could get things completed and she made us promise that we would take it over and make it happen.”

Deborah Parker thinks that Tracy probably got the idea for mTT through a disabled cousin in Michigan. “Cousin Scotty has been disabled since birth, but he competes in one of the Michigan chapters. He’s participated for five or six years.

“Tracy thought that was so neat and when she moved to Seattle, she wanted to start a chapter out here in Puget Sound,” she said.

The Parkers moved to the Key Peninsula about a year and a half ago, but Deborah came to Gig Harbor before that. “I came out here and lived in our camper at the Gig Harbor RV park when Tracy was first diagnosed. She had an inoperable tumor on her brain stem,” Deborah said.

“Before she died, she wanted to leave a legacy so after she was diagnosed she decided to start mTT here. She had it up to the point of the legal papers for the nonprofit part. We took it from there,” she said.

The Parkers recently got their official nonprofit status and have put together a local board of directors.

They hope to have the new chapter compete in at least 10 races this year.

Now they’re looking for captains and angels.

“We need three angels for each captain,” Tom said. “The angels are the ones who will push the racing chair or pull the boat or peddle on the bike ride.”

Finding captains and angels is mostly done by word-of-mouth –– making contact with local schools and organizations like the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club, he said.

Captains have to get a physician’s OK to participate, and three angels are needed for each participant –– one to do the pushing, pulling or peddling and an angel on each side “so there can be contact with the captain at all times and they’re protected,” he explained.

The captain always finishes first –– the other two angels can’t be in front of them. “And if the captain is capable of getting up, we’d love to have them be able to walk across the finish line,” he said.

“We also will have medical staff on-site for every event and GPS units so people can go online and see where everyone is.”

They’re also looking for volunteers and money donations to buy equipment. Racing chairs cost $1,200-$1,500 each, Deborah Parker said. “We have one chair that’s being donated by some people in Hawaii, but we have to provide all others.”

DaVita Dialysis, Deborah’s employer, donated $2,500 and the Parkers are making the rounds of local Rotary and Lions clubs and other service organizations to spread the word about their mTT chapter.

“Our chapter covers a huge area –– all of Puget Sound. I just marvel at the numbers of disabled people and the runners that we can include,” Tom said.

“There’s so many blessings that will come out of this. It’s an opportunity to the disabled people to do things they probably couldn’t do otherwise,” Deborah added. “And I think that’s why Tracy chose it. She wanted to pick a legacy that would be a blessing to everyone. She knew that not only would mTT be a blessing to the disabled people, but to all of us. It’s a calling, on top of a good idea.”

Starting an mTT chapter wasn’t the only promise Tracy asked of her parents.

“She constantly pushed us both,” Tom said. “Now we have to spread her ashes on top of five mountain peaks.

“I asked her if we could rent a helicopter to spread the ashes and she said ‘No, that’s not the point.’”

“I think she’s probably laughing at us right now,” Deborah said. “When she told us that, I asked her ‘Are you trying to get us in shape or are you trying to kill us so we’ll have to join you?’ And she just kind of smiled.

“But whatever it takes, we’ll be at every race,” she said.

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