The Pink Ladies: Creating Change Through Challenge

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Don’t be fooled by the name — you may think of The Pink Ladies as the “fast” women on the arms of Danny Zuko and the T-Birds, but when it comes to the 150-plus women in this Wilmington, NC triathlon club, the speed is all about swim, bike, run and serve. As a non-profit group, The Pink Ladies doubles as a resource for both athletes and the community, and has served local charities more than $22,000 over the past five years — but it’s not just money that they donate. “Our group is willing to head out on any Saturday to support the Wilmington athletic company,” says its Vice President and Treasurer Sami Winter. “We’re unique in that our mission is to empower women through sport, while at the same time giving back to our community. Each year we pick a different local charity and dedicate our year to it.” 

This year’s charity is Welcome Home Angel, a non- profit organization that creates a home bedroom makeover for children who have been hospitalized suffering from a devastating illness or injury. In addition to creating a cheerful healing space for the child in need, mini-makeovers are given to siblings’ rooms as well, to make sure they feel included in the care of the whole family.  

The importance of one’s environment cannot be understated whether it’s for healing, or for training. The Pink Ladies puts the same effort and thought into the world around the beginner triathlete. “So many tasks can seem daunting to women who are just getting into the sport,” Winter says.  “We strive to provide a learning environment for ladies who want to try their first tri.” Winter also serves as a coach on area endurance team, Without Limits. As a representative serving the women  from each group, she applied for IRONMAN’s Women For Tri grant to help clubs better support and encourage women to get into the sport. As one of only 27 clubs nationwide to receive the money, Winter is excited to use the opportunity to further educate women on multisport. She’s bringing in Olympic silver medalist and Ironman world champion Michellie Jones for a weekend camp filled with learning and information — from open water swimming to navigating the bike shop. 

While having one of the sport’s biggest stars on board certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to generating enthusiasm and recruiting new athletes, Winter believes that the club’s ability to facilitate camaraderie is one of its biggest assets. “We give women a resource. They can ask questions without feeling intimidated because there are so many athletes with the same questions, and we have the right people here to answer them. We host welcome parties and provide monthly clinics on different topics. We train together, and when we support the charities, we provide ‘womanpower’ together.”

The bond between The Pink Ladies has been growing since the group was formed in 2010. According to their website, they are united by their “love to move, motivate each other, to try new things all while giving back and making a difference in our local community together.  We are triathletes, runners, paddlers, walkers, yogis, cheerleaders, bikers, swimmers, boot-campers, Pilates lovers, surfers, and more.  We are active in our community, serving on numerous committees that promote the health of women, children, and everyone in the surrounding area. Most importantly, we support all women and strive to empower each other through our healthy goals. We are friends, mothers, wives, sisters, athletes and so much more!”

Winter hopes to create even more opportunities for women to get together and train, and even travel to compete in longer races together. “Through that camaraderie we could encourage more ladies to step up to the half or full distance,” she says. “Stepping up” seems to be part of the club ethos, as The Pink Ladies logo sports the tagline, “JUST TRI HARD.” As it’s often said, it’s about the journey — not the destination. The Pink Ladies graciously embrace challenges together whether it’s within their community, or on the racecourse. “If I had to describe the club in one word, it’s gratitude,” Winter states. “The ability to be thankful for every run, every session, every clinic, and the ability to share that with others in the community. That isn’t a high-powered intensity word, but it’s the one I think of to describe the ladies in my circle.”

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