Giving Back: Team USA Athlete Helps Grow USAT Foundation
by USA Triathlon Foundation
An article in the USA Triathlon magazine led a former collegiate runner-turned-triathlete to spend 10 years helping the USA Triathlon Foundation grow.
John Cassimatis was a high school cross country champion who went on to run cross country and track in college. After moving to New York City for his first job, he ran for the New York Athletic Club in several New York City and Boston marathons, netting a personal best of 2:34.
John first became involved in triathlon in 1983 before taking a break to raise his family. He returned to triathlon about 20 years later when a friend began training for IRONMAN Lake Placid.
“It’s been an old sport for me and also a new sport,” he said.
Since returning to the sport, John has competed in multiple IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events, including the 70.3 World Championships in South Africa in 2018. In November, he’ll represent Team USA at the 2022 World Triathlon Grand Final Abu Dhabi.
When he started racing triathlons again, John happened to notice an article in USA Triathlon’s magazine seeking board members as it formed a nonprofit—the USA Triathlon Foundation.
“I get involved with a lot of local nonprofits in the area, and believe in giving back to the community,” said John, who lives in Hillsborough, N.J. “I thought, how cool would it be to give back to the sport I love.”
In the last 10 years, John has served as secretary, vice president and eventually board president. He’ll be rolling off the board this year due to term limits but says his time with the Foundation has been “awesome.”
“The Foundation has come a long way,” he said, noting how it’s evolved from volunteers to full-time staff. “I’m excited about what it can do for the sport and the people it serves as it grows.”
These individuals are comprised in our three Pillars: youth, adaptive athletes and Olympic/Paralympic hopefuls. The Foundation has been providing grants to support these pillars since inception in 2014 and will grant out more than $300,000 in 2022.
John says the grants are “very meaningful” to people like race directors, as they start a youth triathlon.
He's also proud of the role the Foundation played in women’s varsity triathlon hitting the 40-school mark to achieve NCAA status. The USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Triathlon Emerging Sport Grant provides the necessary funding to support NCAA schools interested in adding women’s triathlon at the varsity level.
When it comes to the Foundation’s three Pillars, John is particularly passionate about adaptive and youth triathletes.
In reading through the 100-plus grant applications the Foundation receives each year, he’s learned about some of the diverse, underserved communities where triathlon has made a profound impact on kids.
“It’s amazing when you hear about people who have never swam or never thought about sports--let alone three of them,” he said. “The way it’s shaped a youth through health, life skills and being part of a community is just huge.”
That’s why John and his wife, Dottie, support the CEO Excellence Fund, as well as specific initiatives related to youth and diversity in the sport.
He’s seen firsthand how triathlon can transform a life, as well as the lives of others, who have become healthier, overcome challenges or continue to compete at an age when others have slowed down.
“The future is looking bright for the Foundation and those we’re serving,” John said.
The USA Triathlon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the charitable arm of USA Triathlon. With its mission to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run, the Foundation serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars: (1) Encourage youth participation; (2) Inspire adaptive athletes; and (3) Ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams. Since the Foundation was established in 2014, it has provided millions of dollars in grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon.