Parkites strive to help people with disabilities participate in sports with Utah chapter of the Kyle Pease Foundation
When Joe and Michelle Guttenplan moved to Utah five years ago, they were crushed to leave Atlanta behind, as well as the Kyle Pease Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in sports.
The foundation was started by brothers Brent and Kyle Pease after Kyle, who has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, completed a triathlon with Brent in April of 2011. As active members in the triathlon community, the Guttenplans met Brent and became passionate about the nonprofit’s mission.
“Brent was active in the triathlon world in Atlanta as well, so we got to know him well through the races we all did,” Joe Guttenplan said. “Through knowing him, we heard all about the foundation and started racing with them. It’s a pretty special thing to be a part of and we knew we had to bring it out West.”
The Guttenplans did just that when they moved to Utah, helping form the Utah chapter of the Kyle Pease Foundation.
“We knew we had to stay involved but wasn’t sure how we were going to do that, whether it was flying back to raise money in Atlanta or whatnot,” Michelle said. “We called Kyle and Brent and they basically told us that we were going to start the Utah chapter, thinking we would be great to start here and get the community support going. It was an easy decision for us, and one we enjoy doing every day.”
After spending the previous five years in Salt Lake City, the Guttenplans moved to Park City approximately two months ago. The headquarters of the nonprofit’s Utah chapter, which they say has grown steadily since its inception five years ago, is also located here. Joe and Michelle are two of six people on the board of directors, with more than 100 volunteers already having taken part in the nonprofit’s events, they said. According to the Guttenplans, the nonprofit has served 25 disabled athletes in the area.
“If anyone in the community wants to take part in some sort of race, we do everything we can to make it happen and we never turn anyone away,” Joe said. “For all of the athletes, we do our best to give them a very special experience. We try to show faces outside of Kyle, although he is the inspiration, but because there are others out there struggling yet still fighting, we want them to feel important and noticed as well.”
According to Michelle, the Utah chapter puts on a minimum of one race a month. While the chapter typically takes off January and February due to the weather, it makes up for it with at least two events per month in the summer.
“We have a few peak months that we schedule out in advance, where we do a 5K race, a half marathon, a marathon and a triathlon all taking part in one month,” Michelle said.
Prior to moving to Utah and starting the Utah chapter, the Guttenplans met when friends set them up. Michelle, who was training for a marathon, and Joe, who was training for a triathlon, began to train together. And the rest is history for the couple, who were married three years ago in Park City.
“There was nothing to spectacular about our story. … I mean we just started training together and trust me when I say that’ll make you real close real quick,” Michelle said. “Joe got the bright idea to move to Utah and I was like, ‘OK, we’ll see how it goes.’ Once here, we knew we always wanted to be living in Park City, and together we made that happen.”
Now married, living in Park City and heavily involved in the nonprofit’s Utah chapter, Joe and Michelle say they couldn’t be happier with their lives, even if it does get a little complicated and busy at some times.
“The joke we have is to remind us again why we are doing all of this, but the second the race starts it makes it all worth it,” Joe said. “Our hobbies are very much a part of our lives. Sometimes I wish I could be on my couch drinking a beer, but I know I’d go stir crazy, and Michelle is the same way.”
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