LAKE PLACID - It's been almost eight years since Sandra Izzo competed in the Lake Placid Ironman triathlon. Still, this Lake Placid resident had a special reason to sign up for this year's event.
This time, Izzo won't be competing for herself. She'll also be raising funds for a cause close to her heart through the Janus Charity Challenge.
The program, sponsored by the Janus investment management firm, allows athletes to choose a nonprofit to benefit from donations. Janus also makes additional contributions to the beneficiaries of the top fundraisers for each of the full-distance U.S. Ironman races.
"Through their generosity and commitment, Janus Charity Challenge athletes are making the most of a great fundraising opportunity," said Casey Cortese, assistant vice president of Janus Corporate Sponsorships. "These triathletes are taking their race to a higher level by providing much-needed support for nonprofit organizations throughout the country."
For her charity, Izzo chose Rachel's Vineyard, an after-abortion healing program.
The organization offers healing retreats to anyone struggling with the emotional and spiritual pain of abortion. Operating nationally since 1994, the program has helped more than 100,000 people in its small group settings.
Izzo has been a volunteer for Rachel's Vineyard since 2006 when the program was first offered at Camp Guggenheim near Saranac Lake. The Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, which includes much of the North Country, holds Rachel's Vineyard retreats there twice annually.
Izzo said there is a continually growing need for the help Rachel's Vineyard can offer.
"Abortion is a silent wound which women carry secretly, sometimes for years, and this pain can affect every aspect of their life," said Izzo, noting how she's seen first-hand the pain people bear. "Those hurting need to know they are not alone and that confidential help is available."
Izzo said the idea of raising money for Rachel's Vineyard was her main motivation for competing in the Ironman this year.
"I don't think I would have done it if I didn't do it for this," she said.
That motivation will be a big factor for Izzo as she competes Sunday, July 25. Though she completed the 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run four times before, the last try came in 2002.
Still, the 50-year old mother has at least 20 years of racing experience and is optimistic she can go the distance in Lake Placid.
"If I just finish, I will be ecstatic for Rachel's Vineyard," she said. "Any time I'll be very happy with."
To make a contribution to fundraising efforts for Izzo or any of the other 250 athletes participating in the Janus Charity Challenge, visit www.januscharitychallenge.com and click "How to Donate." Donations must be made by Saturday, July 24, at 2 p.m. to be eligible for Janus contributions.
Donations can also be made to Rachel's Vineyard at any time by calling Izzo at 523-2410 or sending a check payable to Rachel's Vineyard to 15 Old Military Road, Lake Placid, N.Y., 12946. All donations are tax deductible.
The 12th annual Ironman USA will be held in Lake Placid this Sunday and spectators can track Izzo's progress live on race day by visiting www.ironmanlive.com.