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Local family honors daughter’s memory with annual ‘Try-athlon’

By Grace Pecci | Jul 27, 2019

BEDFORD — A local family has taken the terrible tragedy of losing a young daughter and turned it into something positive.

Bedford residents Christine and David Phillips founded Friends of Aine, a nonprofit that provides child, teen and adult bereavement services and aims to raise awareness of the need to support grieving children, in 2013, following the death of their daughter Aine.

Aine died in 2010 at the age of eight due to an undiagnosed case of Pulmonary Hypertension, which led to Pulmonary Veno Occlusive Disease.

Aine’s mother Christine said the creation of Friends of Aine was twofold.

“We wanted to create a legacy for Aine and we wanted to help her sister Bella who was getting services from the Good Grief Program. It became apparent that more kids need service and support so we decided to expand,” Christine said.

The Good Grief Program is a 30-year-old program that was started by Home Health and Hospice Care in Merrimack. After a mutual agreement, Home Health and Hospice Care gifted Friends of Aine the program. The program is now run at the Friends of Aine Facility, which is located in Manchester.

Christine said Friends of Aine currently serves around 65 families, but has the capacity to support 90.

As a way to raise funds for the Good Grief Program, they will be hosting their seventh annual Friends of Aine Kid’s TRY-athlon, which will be held on Sunday, Aug. 18 in Bedford.

The race is open to children of all athletic abilities, ages four to 15.

“When we first came up with this idea, we were trying to put Aine’s spirit into it,” Christine said. “As a kid she loved riding bikes, she loved swimming and jump roping and running around.”

She added, “We decided on a triathlon for kids, but we changed the ‘I’ to ‘Y’ to make it more friendly for kids who might not have the same athletic ability. We want all kids to be able to be successful.”

In past years, Christine said, they have had an excellent turn out. Last year they had over 300 children participate with nearly a thousand spectators.

“It’s a great day and this is a big fundraiser for us,” Phillips said of the TRY-athlon. “All of the proceeds go back to the Good Grief Program and the center.”

The Phillips hope the event will bring more awareness to grief.

“Right now it really is a public health issue, kids who have experienced a significant death,” Christine said.

The Friends of AINE Kids’s TRY-athlon’s course design and event timing will be provided by Millennium Running.

All children ages four through 15 are encouraged to participate, however they must be able to swim the length of a pool without floatation devices. The organization notes that training wheels are allowed for the bike course.

Children ages four through 10 will swim 25 yards, bike one mile and run half a mile, while youth ages 11 -15 will swim 50 yards, bike two miles and run one mile.

Participants will be able to gather pledges for racing as part of their registration. By registering, racers have the opportunity to set up their own fundraising page for donations that will go toward Friends of Aine’s Good Grief Program.

Those who are 15 years or older or interested in volunteering for the event can go online to sign up.

To register for the TRY-athlon, visit https://www.friendsofaine.com/kids-try-athlon/

“It is an opportunity for kids to experience a race without the pressures of worrying if they can make the distances or not – we’ve designed it so that everyone is triumphant,” the Phillips stated.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.

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