Ryan Darby next to the JUST TRYAN IT race day banner

The first article in our blog series highlighting local nonprofits features an organization that has been impacting the lives of children diagnosed with cancer since 2010. JUST TRYAN IT was founded by a group of Bethesda-area women who started running together to train for the Iron Girl triathlon. They started their running group under the name “Just Tri It.” After the event, they learned that Mollie Darby’s son Ryan had been diagnosed with leukemia. The group jumped to support the Darby family and changed their name to “Just TRYAN It” in Ryan’s honor. As a result, the foundation was born.

Childhood cancer can cause emotional and financial stress for patients and their families. JUST TRYAN IT seeks to ease the pain of families with children diagnosed with cancer by providing financial assistance. Realizing that there were so many parents at the hospital struggling to make ends meet, Darby wanted to focus the organization on supporting families as they go through the treatment process. “There’s the stress of having a sick child, but on top of that having to pay your bills,” explains board member and News Generation president Susan M. Apgood.

Community Building and Youth Activism

As a local organization, one of JUST TRYAN IT’s goals is to build a community-based movement that centers around kids and their families. The organization is sponsored by Landon School, where the group hosts their annual triathlons for kids in Bethesda. Kids from Landon and surrounding schools are the organization’s biggest participants. “There are kids who have really bubbled to the top,” says Apgood. The kids are also big fundraisers, doing things like bar mitzvah projects, lemonade stands and asking for donations to JUST TRYAN IT instead of birthday gifts. Last year, there were 18 kids who raised over $2,000.

Child participants range from ages 6 to 14. The goal is to encourage involvement when kids are young so that by the time they are 14, the importance of community activism is engrained. With the annual triathlon, the kids also benefit from the value placed on athleticism. “All of us on the board are involved in physical fitness in one way or another,” says Apgood. The process of working hard to cross the finish line is something she wants the kids to appreciate.

What’s Next for JTI?

Expansions in Baltimore, MD, Raleigh, NC and Park City, UT are on the horizon. Saturday, March 12 marks the beginning of the race season with the opening of the Bethesda race registration. The Chapel Hill race will take place on May 1 and the Bethesda race will follow on June 19. The final race will be held in Baltimore this coming fall on September 11. For more information on JUST TRYAN IT and to learn how to get involved, visit http://justtryanit.com/.

For updates and news, follow them on twitter @JUSTTRYANIT and like them on Facebook.