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Leading by Example: USA Triathlon's then-CEO Donates $100K to USAT Foundation

by Ashley Miller

Editor’s note: since this article was written, both Rocky Harris and Dr. Gabe Cagwin have moved on from USA Triathlon. This story has been edited to refer to both as former employees.

Triathlon has the power to transform lives. But getting started in the sport or getting to the next level comes with barriers. That’s why USA Triathlon’s former CEO, Rocky Harris (2017-22), and his wife, Liz, are committed to opening pathways for all to swim, bike and run.

With an unprecedented donation of $100,000 to the USA Triathlon Foundation, Rocky and Liz are once again leading by example. And Rocky is setting the standard for what it means to be a true CEO.

Their gift will support the newly created CEO Excellence Fund, which assists the biggest needs among the Foundation’s three pillars--youth and adaptive athletes and Olympic/Paralympic hopefuls.

Former USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris and his family (wife and three kids) pose for a photo with a soccer field in the background.

“With our Foundation, there’s really no other nonprofit in endurance sport that reaches the three pillars we reach at once,” Rocky said. “If you want to invest money that you know will go directly to helping people get the support and access they need, we’re the best foundation to give to.”

As a parent of three girls, Hope, Grace and Ruby, Rocky knows firsthand the lingering impacts the pandemic has had on kids and the importance of youth participation in triathlon.

Out of everyone associated with the sport, youth were the most affected during the pandemic, Rocky said. They became less active and less socially connected as races and clinics were canceled, and clubs postponed group training.

Children were already facing a mental health crisis before COVID-19, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. As COVD-19 disrupted routines and increased isolation, kids across the nation have struggled with increased anxiety, sadness, irritability and stress.

Triathlon is a fun fitness outlet that is helping kids overcome those negative feelings.

“We’re hearing from a lot of the kids with mental health issues, the sport was the one thing they relied on to really make them feel normal again,” Rocky said. “It gives them confidence that they’re going to get through this.”

The price tag of starting triathlon can be a barrier for some families. That’s why the USA Triathlon Foundation supports youth programs across the country, as well as provides equipment and funds camps, clinics, race fees and travel for current and aspiring athletes.

“You won’t find another CEO in the country more passionate and committed to the organization he serves than Rocky, which is evident by his incredible donation,” said Dr. Gabe Cagwin, former president and chief advancement officer of the USA Triathlon Foundation. “By creating the CEO Excellence Fund, we’re able to create a new opportunity for donors to get involved and make a direct impact by contributing to the greatest needs of the organization.”

Donors who support this fund will be part of an exclusive group who believe in what Rocky is building and will also have inside access to him and other leaders of the organization, Gabe said.

If you’d like to join Rocky and Liz in supporting the USA Triathlon Foundation through the CEO Excellence Fund, contact the Foundation at info@usatriathlonfoundation.org or 716-830-1835.

You can also support the USA Triathlon Foundation’s mission through:

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. To learn more about the Foundation and get involved, please visit usatriathlon.org/foundation.