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Meet the Winners of the 2017 Heart & Courage Awards

Coeur Sports

Posted on December 23 2017

Meet the Winners of the 2017 Heart & Courage Awards

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog about our first ever Heart & Courage Awards. In that post, we noted that sometimes the world (or at least the media) seemed to frequently have a binary focus on either superficial things or the darker events that inevitably occur around the world.

While the more poignant and the uplifting stories do get an occasional mention, they are often drowned out by the latest who is dating who in Hollywood headline or the multi-car pile-up that happened last night. Now, that’s not to say that the media hasn’t had any positive influence and we applaud the coverage of the #MeToo movement that is gaining long overdue traction. It’s just that we’d love to see a more permanent change in the mix of coverage that shared.

Of course, we know the newsroom saying that “If it bleeds, it leads” and we’re not thinking that we’re going to have any impact whatsoever on the programing schedule anywhere. But…we are a “glass is half full” type of company and our endurance sports training has taught us to set goals and start putting one foot in front of the other. So, that’s part of the reason why we want to do our little part to celebrate some amazing individuals and to highlight their stories.

If you didn’t have a chance to see the first post where we announced the award program, we’ll just summarize and say that we wanted to hear about individuals who did any or all of the following:

  • Did something to inspire or encourage others
  • They dug deep in their own race and accomplished something amazing
  • They overcame an obstacle and achieved a personal goal
  • They somehow helped to grow and promote endurance sports

We made it clear that the nominees didn’t have to be a Coeur customer or to be affiliated with us in any way. To the best of our ability, we wanted to make this about the individual and their performance.

Within hours after announcing the program, the nominations started flowing in and our eyes began to tear up after reading the very first one. It’s hard to put words around the feelings that came out, but it is safe to say that words like awe-inspiring, courageous, and inspirational just do not do the nominees justice!

After the team read the applications, we discussed the amazing individuals and went through a series of votes until we had selected three incredible ladies to recognize.  All three of them will receive a Coeur gift card, some free gear and we'll make a donation to the charity of their choice.  

So, with that as context, we’re honored and humbled to share the stories of the three winners of the 2017 Heart & Courage awards. They are listed alphabetically by last name and we’ve included the text that was shared as part of their nomination.

Stephanie Griffioen

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Stephanie is a member of the Tri Okc community. She writes a blog called Women Who Rise that she publishes on Wednesday. A little over 100 days ago, someone ran a red light and killed her husband as he was on his run. He was crossing at a crosswalk, with the walk light on. He was 28.

One week later, she stood in that intersection to kick off a 5k that was already scheduled. They turned it into a #run4rob. She has since organized several runs in her husband's honor. She also remembered a promise she made when Rob had purchased her a triathlon bike not too long ago.  She said that she'd put the bike to good use and would rock a 70.3 on it some day.  Despite the unspeakable pain of loss, she was not going to leave that promise unfulfilled and she completed the Redman 70.3 on the bike.

Finally, in a move that shows her amazing character, she has forgiven the driver who hit her husband. Stephanie shares her struggles in the most honest way, but glows with an internal light that simply cannot be denied.

Heather Ryan

Heather is the most positive and upbeat person I've ever met. She is also one of the strongest women I know! She is an amazing individual who always sets big goals for herself and actually achieves them! She’s also one of the kindest human beings on the planet. She's a vegan and spends time and energy to support the Humane League which is dedicated to reducing the suffering of farm animals. 

She was signed up to race Ironman Coeur D’Alene and her training was going well. Then her world was turned upside down when she received a cancer diagnosis. Rather than opting out of the race, she continued to train while receiving chemo treatments and showed up on the start line as planned.

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She motivates others who feel that they could never do an Ironman and goes out of her way to get them to sign up. Her triathlon community looks to her as an inspiration and her positive nature and desire to set and meet goals has an incredible impact on everyone that knows her!

Sarah Wisniewski

Sarah is a 31 year mom of three amazing children. She takes care of her husband who served in the military and is back from active duty. Two years ago when she was eight months pregnant, she was shot.

She spent months in the hospital and showed enormous grit and determination to pull through. Luckily, she has recovered and her baby is fine. The shooting had a tremendous impact on her and she is now pursuing a job as a police officer. Her goal is to serve and do whatever she can to prevent this from happening to others.

She joined the local swim team that I coach at Kean University this year. She swam as a child but does not have any competitive swimming experience. Sarah comes to practice every day, never complains and always puts her heart on the line for her teammates.

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At the very first swim meet we had, she volunteered to swim the 1,000 free when no one else would. Over the past few months, she has already taken 2 1/2 minutes off her time in the 1,000 freestyle.

She exemplifies heart and courage every single day in so many ways.

Coeur Note: Sarah's choice for the Coeur charity donation is Operation Underground Railroad which rescues children from sex trafficking. 

We thank everyone for submitting the names and stories of some absolutely incredible nominees. We plan on continuing this program and as we grow we hope to recognize more and more people who demonstrate true heart and courage everyday.